Nature becoming 'sacrificial lamb at the altar of growth', says Norfolk Wildlife Trust boss

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Nature is becoming a "sacrificial lamb at the altar of growth", according to conservationists who claim the government has launched an attack on the environment.

Friday's mini-budget included plans to fast-track development and relax planning rules around new investment zones to try and kickstart the economy.

But wildlife groups are worried the environment will pay the price, with fears growing over the future of green farming subsidies and regulations which protect habitats.

"Nature is becoming a sacrificial lamb at the altar of growth," said Eliot Lyne, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

"It's a throwback to the 1980s, really. It's 30 years of environmental regulation down the drain.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Eliot Lyne. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Norfolk is a county where 50,000 jobs and £3bn of income are reliant on tourism.

"So do people want to come and look at business parks or big roads? No - they want to come and look at the Norfolk Broads, the wonderful coast, the Brecks."

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is one of the main opponents to the controversial Western Link, which would connect Norwich's Northern Distributor Road to the A47 near Honingham.

The road is one of dozens of schemes on the government's fast-track list and would span just under four miles at a cost of just over £250m.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is among the critics of the Norwich Western Link scheme. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A public consultation is under way and a planning application is not expected until next year - but survey work has already begun at the potential site.

Councillor Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “It is too early to say how last week’s announcements will affect proposed schemes across the country, and we are looking forward to seeing more detail from the government when that is available.

“The Norwich Western Link is a vital piece of infrastructure for Norfolk as building it would enable us to reduce congestion, cut journey times, and tackle rat running, and make a huge positive difference to local residents, businesses, emergency services and visitors to our county."

Other schemes ministers want to "accelerate" include a bypass for Long Stratton and Suffolk's controversial new nuclear power station Sizewell C.

The RSPB has long opposed that plan and its likely impact on the neighbouring Minsmere reserve - and the charity has been one of the most vocal critics of the mini-budget.

In Norfolk, wildlife and conservation groups have met to discuss how to respond to the government's plans. The Bishop of Norwich also attended and expressed his concern.

The Rt Revd Graham Usher accused the government of wanting to "renege on its climate and nature responsibilities".

He said: "Ripping up our commitments to internationally agreed directives, that have begun to turn the tide of nature destruction, is totally irresponsible.

"They do this at our peril.”

The government has insisted it is committed to protecting the environment.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said he was determined to streamline a "slow and fragmented planning system".

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