The House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 was appointed by the House on 29 June 2017.
The remit of the Committee is “to consider and report on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006”. The Committee will explore the following key issues in detail and would welcome your views on the questions listed.
This is a public call for written evidence to be submitted to the Committee. The deadline is 4pm on Monday 11 September 2017.
Rural advocacy and the Commission for Rural Communities
1. Since the closure of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC), and subsequent winding up of the Defra Rural Communities Policy Unit, how – if at all – are the CRC’s original functions of advocate, adviser and watchdog being fulfilled?
2. Are sufficient measures being taken to ensure that policies are rural-proofed at national and local levels? Who is taking the lead on policy for rural areas – and who should be taking the lead on such matters?
3. What role should Defra – or other Government departments – play in co-ordinating policy for rural areas? How effectively are the interests – including social and economic interests – of rural communities being represented within the current structures of Government, and how could representation and co-ordination be improved?
4. How well has Natural England fulfilled the mandate that it currently has? How well do its wide-ranging functions fit together, and does it have the appropriate powers and resources to perform these functions?
5. Are any changes to the remit and responsibilities of Natural England required, either as a result of Brexit or of other significant developments in the period since 2006?
6. Do the arrangements and provisions for enabling and managing access to the countryside remain appropriate? How effective have Natural England – and other partners – been in promoting better access?
Sustainability and biodiversity
7. Is the duty to ‘have regard’ to biodiversity, which is contained within the Act, well understood by those bodies to whom it applies? Is any further work required to raise awareness of the duty?
8. What has been the practical impact of the 2006 duty? Is any modification to the duty required as a result of developments in our understanding of the value of ecosystems and biodiversity since 2006?
9. How does the English duty to ‘have regard’ to biodiversity compare to the Scottish duty to ‘further’ biodiversity and the enhanced biodiversity duty introduced in Wales in 2016?
The changing context since 2006
10. Will the structures established by the Act be sufficient to ensure appropriate protection for nature and environmental standards following Brexit? Are any modifications or changes to the structures established by the Act required to address the implications of Brexit?
11. Are there any further parts of the Act which are currently in force that need to be re-considered as a result of developments since 2006?