Amendment 102

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 18 July 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 7:00, 18 July 2023

My Lords, we find that we form some unusual alliances in your Lordships’ House, especially in relation to protecting our environment. On this topic, I was very happy to put my name to Amendment 102 in the names of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. The reason I did that was that I am lucky enough to have spent my life living in the wonderful county of Hertfordshire. For those of you who are not aware, Hertfordshire contains over 20% of the world’s unique and special, natural and precious chalk streams. The noble Viscount has already explained that this country is the custodian of the vast majority of this precious natural resource—more than 85%. To have 20% of that in my county is a real reason for doing all that I can to ensure that they are protected.

From the Rivers Chess and Colne in the west of Hertfordshire and the River Beane, which runs alongside my town, to the Rivers Lea, Stort and Ash in the south and east of the county, along with many others, we are blessed with what should be vital water resources, providing habitats for a huge diversity of species, from damselfly to salmon. Sadly, as we have heard, they are under increasing pressure from overextraction and pollution and, while progress is being made through the catchment-based approach mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, they are still struggling and under pressure. We need to improve their health and focus on that through the chalk stream strategy. There is still much more to be done.

I am most grateful to the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, which does so much work in this area and has been incredibly helpful in providing information for me. Our precious monuments and ancient buildings have huge protection in the planning system through the mechanism of listing, but we do not seem to take these precious natural resources as seriously in this regard. I support the aims of the amendment in attempting to do that by ensuring that any development in the area of chalk streams explicitly considers the impact on them and sets out what mitigations will be needed. If our chalk streams were buildings, they would be UNESCO heritage sites. Let us protect them as though they were.