Country Life Today: Conservationists welcome the new Environment Bill but some wonder whether it will make it into law

In today's round up, we look at the provisions of the new Environment Bill and the reactions to it; discuss whether fracking is coming to an end in the UK; and discover who is the world's best porridge-maker.

Government presents ‘landmark’ Environment Bill

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech introduced a landmark Environment Bill, promising to trigger ‘a green transformation that will help our country to thrive,’ according to Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers. She says it will place environmental ambition and accountability ‘more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.’

The Bill intends to improve air and water quality, tackle the plastic problem and restore habitats, creating a wide range of legally-binding targets. Among others, measures will empower local authorities to fight pollution, build new houses in a way that enhances biodiversity, improve water management, introduce a bottle deposit return scheme and ensure producers take responsibility for the waste they create.

The Government also plans to set up a new independent Office for Environmental Protection to scrutinise environmental policy and law.

The Bill has generally been well received by countryside and conservation bodies, with the Wildlife Trusts calling it ‘a welcome step forward,’ ClientEarth hailing it as ‘an unmissable opportunity for the UK’ and the Country Land and Business Association praising the fact that it provides ‘the stability and clarity needed for the Government to meet its environmental ambitions.’

However, some people question whether the Bill — alongside many others featured in the Queen’s Speech — will ever see the light of the day as a lack of a Parliamentary majority for the Government and divisions over Brexit could potentially lead to a new General Election. For this reason, conservationists such as the Wildlife Trusts are asking for the Bill to become a priority for all parties. ‘Time is running out,’ they wrote on Twitter. ‘We must act quickly to tackle the environment emergency.’

More details (Let’s Recycle)

Is this the end of fracking in the UK?

Anti-fracking campaigners are claiming victory after energy company Cuadrilla began removing equipment from its Lancashire site. Operations had been halted since last August, when drilling caused a tremor of 2.9 magnitude on the Richter scale, triggering a review by the Oil and Gas Authority. Now Cuadrilla have said that ‘further hydraulic fracturing will not take place at Preston New Road before current planning permission for fracturing expires at the end of November’.

Cuadrilla fracking drilling site on rural farmland at Little Plumpton, just outside Blackpool.

Cuadrilla fracking drilling site on rural farmland at Little Plumpton, just outside Blackpool.

Even though the company also stated that it will ‘begin flow–testing’ a second well, activists believe that this move marks the beginning of the end for shale-gas extraction in the UK.

Full story (Country Life)

On this day

Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar on October 15, 1582 to correct a mistake that arose from the Julian system that had previously been in use. The difference between the two was of 11 days so October 4, 1582, was immediately followed by October 15.

The ‘new’ calendar is now the most widely used in the world, but it took centuries for it to spread beyond Catholic countries. Britain, for example, only adopted it in September 1752, moving from September 2 to September 14 over the course of 24 hours.

Late-born baby hedgehogs may not survive winter

Rising temperatures are putting hedgehogs at risk. Because the weather is warmer, larger numbers of hoglets are born later in the year but they may not have enough time to grow before the cold sets in. This means that many will not make it through winter.

Young hedgehog

Rising temperatures mean baby hedgehogs are born later in the year but their chances of surviving winter are slim

Charities are calling for donations to help them take care of rescued baby hedgehogs, as well as asking the public to take a few simple steps to support the beleaguered species.

Full story (Country Life)

Devon fights plans to move a railway line on Holcombe beach

Devon residents have reacted angrily to Network Rail’s plans to move a stretch of railway line onto Holcombe Beach.

The line, which links Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the country, currently runs close to cliffs that are at risk of falling. In 2014, a storm caused so much damage that the line had to be closed for six weeks, costing the local economy £1 billion. Network Rail believes moving it onto the beach is the best possible solution to keep it open. However, residents object that this will destroy the beach and have a devastating impact on local people, wildlife and tourism.

Network Rail said a consultation would be held before the project goes ahead.

Full story (BBC)

New robots will inspect offshore wind farms

In a fresh boost to the renewable energy industry, Scottish scientists have created special drones that can examine potential damage to wind turbines in offshore farms, attach sensors to check whether the structure is sound and potentially begin any necessary repair work.

This, says Dr Mirko Kovac of Imperial College London, which is part of the consortium that developed the robots, ‘has far reaching applications, including removing the need for humans to abseil down the side of turbines which can be both dangerous and expensive.’

Full story (The Herald)

And finally… the world has a new porridge-making champion

There’s someone who makes porridge better than anyone else in the world and her name is Lisa William. Mrs William, from Trimley St Martin, in Suffolk, has vanquished competitors from as far afield as Canada and Sweden to win the World Porridge Making Championships and bag the coveted Golden Spurtle that comes with the title.

She had already made it to the final six in the 2016 edition, but this time her recipe proved unbeatable — which is all the more extraordinary when considering that competitors can only use oatmeal, water and salt in their creations. Her porridge, said judges, ‘had a beautiful texture and a lovely flavour – it just came together.’

Full story (Ipswich Star)