Green-image In the last couple of days the Tory leadership has been making a determined effort to show that green Conservatism is alive and kicking.  Yesterday George Osborne announced ten new green initiatives in advance of Wednesday's Budget.  Speaking to the Wildlife Trust today David Cameron has announced that Nick Herbert MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will investigate the practicalities of setting up a scheme that will ensure any development that damages the environment makes a compensating investment in the environment elsewhere.

The Tory scheme was first reported by The Guardian in February.  A cost of £5,000 per average house was mentioned by that newspaper at the time although ConHome doesn't expect the Tory proposal to be so expensive.  Nonetheless, it could significantly raise the cost of housebuilding but would release enormous sums for investment in new parkland or for protecting areas of outstanding natural beauty.

This is what David Cameron will say:

"The idea, to put it simply, is that any cost to biodiversity, through something like development, is compensated for by at least an equivalent investment in biodiversity elsewhere. So instead of simply planting trees on a small patch of land on the edge of a new housing development, for example, conservation credits would allow several developments in one area to be pooled to create large habitat projects. This could be a new country park or community woodland, so there was somewhere for local children to play and learn about their environment. It could be new wetlands, or a new wildlife reserve. These projects would not only provide significant enjoyment to people, they would also create new habitats in which nature can survive and thrive.

Conservation credits are about placing a value on biodiversity for the first time, because only if you place a value on something can you truly compensate for loss. This is potentially an incredibly exciting idea to enhance biodiversity, but the practicalities need careful consideration.  Any system must be consistent with our local objectives. We must take care not to put unaffordable burdens on home ownership.  It will have to be fully consistent with our plans to expand the number of affordable homes. 

The system mustn’t make it more difficult for responsible businesses to make green choices and invest in local conservation projects. And it mustn’t create a new bureaucracy – in fact, it should do the opposite the aim should be to give companies and voluntary organisations a new way of engaging in enhancing biodiversity, without a complex  apparatus of state regulation.

We also need to find ways to make it easier for local people to create wildlife habitats close to home which families can enjoy. I’m confident these details can be worked out – I want them to be worked out. 

So today I am delighted to announce that Nick Herbert will set up a review into the scope for introducing a system of conservation credits in England.”

Earlier today a poll found that a former Tory environmental policy idea – to incentivise home energy efficiency – was not popular with Tory voters.

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