With Spring well and truly sprung, May is always a month in which South Shropshire looks at its best. Over half the Ludlow Constituency falls within our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the beautiful scenery and diverse flora and fauna make our county one of the most special in England. It draws in thousands of visitors each year and supports our vital agriculture sector, providing a real boost to the local economy. So it is very important we do what we can to encourage and protect the wildlife and countryside of our area.
I have been concerned about rise in the number of high profile reports of fly-tipping recently, and I take this crime very seriously indeed. Fly tipping blights the areas in which it occurs, poses risks to environment and human health, and affects the livelihoods of those involved in the legitimate waste management industry. So I have been taking this up with the Environment Agency, Shropshire Council and West Mercia Police, to encourage coordinated efforts between these public bodies, and to act before this problem gets worse.
The public can help by remaining vigilant against suspected fly tipping. The Environment Agency investigates larger scale fly-tipping incidents that have the potential to damage human health and the environment: these are offences committed by organised gangs, those involving more than one lorry or tipper load of waste (20 tonnes or more), or where hazardous waste has been dumped. Shropshire Council has local responsibility for investigating and clearing up smaller scale fly-tipping on public land. If you see or suspect illegal dumping of waste, you can report it to Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9006, or the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
I know many local residents share my commitment to preserve and protect our natural environment, and I have received a number of letters and emails from constituents raising concerns about our future environmental policies, as we prepare to leave the European Union. Of course, until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. But I am pleased the Government has committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment outside of the EU. I particularly welcome that the Treasury has confirmed any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime, even if they run beyond this point.
Leaving the EU does mean however that we can tailor our future environmental policies to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.
As a small part of my own commitment to protecting South Shropshire’s natural environment, I am pleased to have become the Parliamentary Species Champion for the Wood White butterfly. The Wood White butterfly was once a much more common sight across England, but is now only found in a few select areas, like the Clun Forest. So I hope to help raise awareness of the conservation and protection of this beautiful rare butterfly, and will be visiting sites on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border next month in the hope of spotting some in flight.
We have both moral and prudent reasons to support the South Shropshire environment. The Government is determined to ensure we are the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it – a view that I wholeheartedly share and support.