Environmental Protection UK

Environmental Protection UK

National environment conference backs environmental protection UK survival

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Source: Environmental Protection UK

A national environmental conference heard calls today from third sector, business and academic leaders to save the oldest environmental NGO in the UK, Environmental Protection UK (EPUK), and praised its unique role in linking national policy and local action to protect the environment. Lord Taylor, Defra Minister for Local Environmental Quality praised EPUK and the recently launched EPUK led Healthy Air Campaign offering his support to both.

Speakers including Lord Whitty, Vice-President of EPUK and former Defra Minister, Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group at King's College London and Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency expressed concerns that without EPUK's work local environmental quality could suffer.

After operating for 113 years EPUK, which was responsible for ground-breaking environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act, now faces closure primarily due to central spending cuts imposed on local government funders. James Grugeon, CEO EPUK, told the conference that the current emphasis on environmental deregulation from government means that local environmental quality could deteriorate.

Responding to Lord Taylor, James Grugeon was critical of the government's emphasis on short-term economic gain at the cost of long-term environmental and economic benefits. He said:

'This Government's focus on deficit reduction and economic growth – seemingly at any cost - is of great concern. Policy, strategy and investment decisions that put deficit reduction and economic growth in a short-term context rather than within the context of improving our well-being and respecting and protecting our environment seem to be winning the battle right now.'

Grugeon emphasised the important of organisations like EPUK to the delivery of the localism agenda and to building partnerships between businesses, third sector groups and local communities: 'Every day I speak to another third-sector organisation providing vital services that is struggling to survive. These are often critically important organisations that perform the vital role of both influencer and deliverer - engaging communities and linking up action to improve or protect local environments. EPUK, the oldest environmental organisation in the UK, now risks becoming another casualty. Organisations like EPUK are the glue that makes working together to protect the local environment possible.'

James Grugeon's comments on EPUK's future were echoed by Lord Whitty, EPUK Vice-President and former DEFRA minister, who expressed his dismay at the difficulties faced by the charity and said it was vital that the organisation survives through voluntary support. He reiterated the call for government to provide funding for EPUK and its projects such as the Healthy Air Campaign, the only national campaign advocating for improved air quality in the UK.

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said, 'We should pay particular tribute to the work of EPUK. Now facing extinction, it has been at the forefront of work to protect environmental quality in this country for over a century, in particular in tackling air quality. We owe EPUK a big debt of gratitude and if it were to happen it would be very sad to lose them.'

Professor Frank Kelly, advisor to the EPUK led Healthy Air Campaign called on government, local authorities, business and academics to get behind the Healthy Air Campaign and reiterated the extent of the public health crisis caused by air pollution, which can be attributed to 29,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.

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