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The EU debate – putting the environment on the agenda

The environment has rarely featured in the EU Referendum debate so today the Landscape Institute, the chartered body for the landscape profession, is to hold a debate on the implications of the EU referendum with an audience of landscape practitioners and invited speakers from the Leave and Remain campaigns.

The event, held at ARUP in central London will hear from George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Food, Farming and the Marine Environment for the Leave campaign and from Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Kerry McCarthy MP, for the Remain campaign.

The Landscape Institute does not hold a position on whether the UK should remain in the EU but is keen to ensure that members are made aware of the significant issues that have not been well-aired to date. It is difficult to understand all of the national measures that stem from the UK’s membership of the EU but the environment is an area in which UK and EU laws have become entwined. It is important to note that EU directives are one of the key ways in which the EU has an impact on the UK environment. These include:

• The Habitats Directive (together with the Wild Birds Directive) which forms the basis of Europe’s nature conservation policy.
• The Birds Directive recognises that habitat loss and degradation are the most serious threats to the conservation of wild birds.
• Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives together provide a high level of protection of the environment and contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation of projects, plans and programmes to reduce their environmental impact.
• Water Framework Directive establishes a framework for the protection of rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater ensuring that all aquatic ecosystems meet ‘good status’.
• Floods Directive which requires EU states to assess if all water courses and coast lines are at risk from flooding and to take action to reduce this flood risk.

Noel Farrer, President of the Landscape Institute, said: “It is important that we hear from both sides of the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU and the implications for the environment. The topics that are being most debated are linked to an immediate political agenda but environmental policy needs to be considered in the longer term and the consequences of the referendum will be long-term”.

He added: “In addition to the key environmental aspects is the free movement of people and the potential impact of the UK voting to leave on those currently employing professionals from overseas. Most landscape architecture practices are small businesses and like every other business, they need to think carefully about what might happen in the event of Brexit to make an informed decision.”

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