Attached is the NFU’s response to the Defra’s consultation: ‘Habitats and Wild Birds Directives: Consultation on simplification of guidance in England’.
In summary, the NFU welcomes the discussion on improvements to the guidance surrounding both the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.
It is really important that the guidance is accessible to all audiences including farmers. The stocktake and draft guidance needs to recognise that farmers are customers as the land managers who care for many protected sites and species.
The specific draft guidance being consulted on is not clear enough for farmers to understand how the Directives impact on their business decisions.
The guidance available needs to ensure they are supported in understanding their obligations and respective roles of others in managing those sites and species. In an effort to improve transparency, farmers should be able to access the guidance used by the competent authority to make decisions, particularly where this affects the management of the land.
The main points that come from these proposals that affect members are:
- The draft guidance is not clear for farmers to understand. It needs redrafting and testing with a farming audience.
- The guidance proposals need to recognise farmers are a key audience to be written to meet their business needs.
- The guidance required by farmers under the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives goes beyond that required by developers and this needs to be recognised as part of the guidance stocktake.
- The guidance needs to sit alongside other legislative requirements in a coherent fashion so transparent decisions can be made.
- The definition of a project needs redrafting so it does not extend the meaning of the Habitats Directive.
- Guidance that competent authorities are using to inform their advice should be accessible to support transparent decision making.