Leaked papers show Natural England to rein in regulation in bid for more funds

Environmental pressure group, Greenpeace has claimed it has leaked documents showing that England’s nature watchdog, Natural England is planning to rein in its regulatory powers and to look for more funding from the corporations it is tasked to keep in check.

Greenpeace said it had seen internal documents from Natural England that included a statement that the watchdog should “make more proportionate use of our regulatory powers” and “provide advice to government that is politically aware.”

Greenpeace quoted an unidentified source in Natural England who was alleged to have said the watchdog was growing more reluctant to regulate and warned that were the trend to continue: “we wouldn’t have any teeth any more”. The same source was also reported to have said the agency was likely to take fewer legal actions against developers or landowners who infringe its rules. “We will go to court less often and try to find compromises more often,” the source was reported to have said.

The leaked documents included a budget cut of up to £30m according to Greenpeace. The pressure groupd said this was forcing the watchdog to increase its funding from commercial sources eightfold by 2020 - including funds from the firms it assesses.

Greenpeace said a "leading conservation charity" told it that Natural England was already withdrawing its opposition to local planning decisions concerning wildlife habitats on a “widespread and significant” level.