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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak 9:03 pm, 28th October 2019

It gives me great pleasure to complete a trio of Ruths on the Opposition Benches.

My constituency of High Peak shows just how important this Environment Bill is, and I welcome the measures in it. The Secretary of State will know from her visit to Toddbrook reservoir this summer how important it is for my constituents in particular that we manage to get to grips with serious rainfall and have the infrastructure to deal with it. As my hon. Friend Rachael Maskell said in an intervention earlier, that includes dealing with upper water catchment areas, and making sure that areas such as those surrounding the Goyt and the Toddbrook reservoir can be rewilded and forested again so that they can deal with the water that is coming down at a much faster rate, given some of the rain we have had recently.

I am also particularly concerned about development impacting on areas in the catchment zones of rivers such as the Goyt, which are prone to flooding. Even if development is in a flood zone 1 area, it can have a heavy impact downstream on areas that are in flood zone 3. That does not seem to be fully mitigated in the national planning framework, and local actions seem incapable of preventing it.

In other areas of the constituency, we have moorland. Last summer, we saw the devastating burning of the moors above my constituency. I have been out with the RSPB and seen how the rewetting and revegetation of that moorland can stop such fires in their tracks. I commend the work that Moors for the Future has been doing for many years, using funds largely from the European Union, to revegetate square kilometres of our moorlands that were previously bare peat, emitting carbon and not sequestering it again. I hope we will be able to look at measures in the Bill to make sure that that work continues.

I also hope we can take action on grouse moors, which are some of the least diverse areas for wildlife. We have serious concerns about the protection of raptors over grouse moors. In my constituency, they have actually disappeared; despite there being some nests, the young have not come to fruition.

As well as the uplands, we also have the towns and the lowlands. In some of my towns, asthma is a third higher than the UK average, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is 50% higher, because we have areas of high traffic congestion, with roads and traffic travelling through valleys. Although there is a clean air zone in Greater Manchester, we are concerned that, being on the edge of the city, we will have polluting vehicles travelling more in areas of High Peak that already see high levels of fuel emissions.

It is therefore important that we have a UK-wide strategy, as well as UK-wide targets and action, on clean air. It is also important that we make sure that there are real consequences for failing to meet those targets and that there is the funding in place—which there is not for Greater Manchester—to support the cleaning up of our diesel vehicles.