Lawyer Monthly - February 2022

36 WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | FEB 2022 HELPING CLIENTS TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH BIODIVERSITY record-keeping and audits on decisions made. Lawyers will also be able to assist local authorities in the development of ‘tree felling’ policies, consultation and internal governance. For local authority clients, documenting decision-making and actions taken will prove critical in defending any challenge that consultation should have been undertaken in a given instance. Local authorities may also need to consider how tree felling fits into an environmentally friendly agenda and ‘green’ decisionmaking, alongside any commitments around sustainability or to mitigate climate change. Tree felling – even when justified – may have greater implications for a local authority client’s reputation, now that the Act may increase scrutiny on decisions made, particularly for local authorities who have declared a ‘climate emergency’. Lawyers can of course assist in protecting the reputation of the client should a challenge arise. Increasing biodiversity net gain Partsof theEnvironment Act havepotentially huge implications for developers, including Schedule 14, which makes provision for a 10% biodiversity gain to be a condition of planning permission in England. Coupled with the application of biodiversity net gain requirements to nationally significant infrastructure projects, such as major transport developments (the likes of HS2), the Act should put pressure on developers to become more environmentally aware and to consider developments and actions based on how they will affect an area’s biodiversity. An example of this was seen last year, when the HS2 infrastructure project faced criticism for felling a 300-year-old tree near Leamington Spa with the justification that they are planting replacement trees and shrubs. The quality of HS2’s replanting programme was also criticised, with a claim that many of the saplings had died due to not being planted properly. Lawyers can assist developers by helping them navigate new laws, assess any plans for biodiversity net gains to ensure they fit within legislation outlined in the Environment Act and avoid a ‘box-ticking’ exercise that may attract widespread criticism and scrutiny without fulfilling any obligations to preserve the environment. While it is clear that some progress is being made, the Environment Act and other measures, including the recent creation of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), will not be enough to mitigate the climate emergency. The OEP, which has been set up to provide independent oversight of the Government’s environmental progress, has been criticised for its limited role and powers. While the body will receive and validate complaints in relation to public authorities, it will not make any final decisions. The Environment Act, too, has faced criticism for some omissions, such as how biodiversity net gains will be measured, meaning challenges may lie ahead for legal professionals attempting to hold developers to account. Nevertheless, the Environment Act is certainly a step in the right direction, and should greatly assist lawyers in helping their clients protect our environment, as well as holding those who do damage to account. The Environment Act is certainly a step in the right direction, and should greatly assist lawyers in helping their clients protect our environment. Anthony Collins Solicitors is a specialist law firm with a focus on improving lives, communities and society. In the 45 years since its founding, the firm has pursued its social purpose through its work with clients across a range of sectors including health and social care, education, housing, local government and social business. Anthony Collins Solicitors has also been recognized as a top-five nationally leading charities practice.

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