After the massive protests of the weekend, the small crowd gathered on College Green for the #AttackOnNature demo felt like a welcome change of pace.
Two dozen people, including several Green councillors, gathered this afternoon (October 3), the United Nation’s World Habitat Day, to protest the government’s proposed investment zones.
Investment zones are envisaged as areas of accelerated development where planning regulations are relaxed and business taxes lowered to “tackle barriers to growth”, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Critics say the plans will strip essential environmental protections.
Speaking to The Bristol Activist, protest organiser Tay said that she and other environmentalists are concerned by the lack of clarity from the government on what the investment zones would actually mean.
‘We’re really asking the government to clarify what they mean with these investment zones. Are they still going to keep a lot of that really vital habitat regulation in place? And with the relaxed planning we want to see those protections being strengthened and built upon, not being removed in a time when our wildlife is facing so much of a crisis already.’
She said the plans could result in ‘more sewage in our rivers, it could mean less beautiful, green, wild places for us to enjoy in our free time. And it also means things like less habitat for our wildlife, which is already struggling in the UK.’
Thirty-eight councils, including both Bristol and the West of England Combined Authority, are eligible for an initial expression of interest in creating investment zones.
Although small, the demo carried the seeds of something bigger. The #AttackOnNature campaign is backed by environmental organisations like the Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, who are reportedly coordinating their responses to the government.
In a series of tweets following the announcement of the investment zone last month, the RSPB spoke out forcefully against the government’s plans, saying that they are ‘angry’ and that the plans could encourage damage to nature ‘with little or no restriction.’
‘The RSPB saying that they’re angry, that’s not a word that environmental organisations use very lightly or very often,’ said Tay.
‘But I think a lot of people are happy about the fact that they’re angry and I think it really speaks volumes about the lack of clarity that the government has been giving environmental organisations who should be working side-by-side with the government,’ she continued.
The RSPB is encouraging people concerned by the plans to contact their MP and have made resources available for anyone wishing to do this.