Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Meeting the Environment Agency, and todays Environment Bill in the Commons

Second Reading of the Environment Bill takes place in the Commons today. I am backing the new legislation as it offers this generation a real opportunity to leave the natural world in a better condition than it inherited. The Environment Bill is one of the flagship pieces of legislation for the new Conservative Government and it aims to protect and enhance the natural environment by tackling a priority of our time. In part this legislation is borne out of the need to address environmental regulation in view of the UK leaving the EU, but it goes much further than simply creating a new post-Brexit framework for the environment. The Bill outlines improved measures to tackle waste; enhance water efficiency and resource management; address air quality, as well as a renewed focus on biodiversity and conservation. The Bill will also create an Office for Environmental Protection to monitor and enforce new and higher standards.

This Bill offers us the opportunity to finish what was started in the last Parliament and to make sure this generation passes on our precious environment in a better state than we found it. We have made real progress in recent years. But this new legislation goes much further.

In addition this week I have met with local Environment Agency representatives to discuss a number of key issues including the response to the recent storms, passing on my thanks of residents for all the teams work, but also to chase up the long awaited River Tyne revised modelling which is a hot topic at our flood forums. 

Clearly the biggest impact has been my successful plan to lower the Kielder reservoir post Storm Desmond – see here:

And we have driven forward innovative local schemes as seen on Tyne Green

But the long term change will not happen unless the EA approach the River Tyne in a different way. We cannot do this without the revised modelling and consequential approach thereafter. I continue to work with local groups, flood groups, councillors and Nick Oliver who leads for us in Tynedale and Northumberland on flood prevention.

I have also had meetings this week with the Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow MP, and the Secretary of State to raise issues with the proposed Kielder Water Abstraction as I have been contacted by a number of concerned businesses, and to continue to press for a replacement of the leader scheme, and an update on both the RPA / BPS situation before next Friday weeks farming surgery and getting more clarity on the progress of the great Northumberland Forest million trees programme. I am holding a forestry summit / update meeting with NCC and key local stakeholders, including Paul Brannen who has done great work on this issue, in Morpeth on Friday.