Maybe 2016 was just too busy with nuclear, energy and nature and infrastructure news, and then Brexit of course, to notice that a very major policy change was set up last year to help developers get round/over/under the EU regulations which have protected the great crested newt.
Described by developers and UK goverment as a "problem", an official consultation was launched at the start of last year by Natural England , the government agency, and DEFRA to change licensing rules for European Protected Species. Results of the consultation were announced December 2016. The Financial Times announced " Developers set for triumph over newts." The aim is to allow developers to build on newt habitats "as long as new habitats can be found". Not much mention of the established mitigation "hierarchy" here. Just a solution to the "ridiculous costs on British businesses", the view of former Chancellor Osborne , the "excessive protection of newts", and generally the "red tape from Europe". A former Tory transport minister was instrumental when he got frustrated at the newts keeping returning to a railway station site in Derbyshire after being "translocated". So far it's just newts in the headlines. But Natural England does all of the licensing of mitigations and removals etc, and the guidelines now talk about "genuine problems to be resolved" and "no satisfactory alternatives" and "meeting the needs" of developers.
So we know where Natural England will likely line up on Sizewell. It is just an arm of government. Supposed to protect England's nature, it's real job looks the exact opposite. All done in the name of "public feedback" from the consultation.....(Natural England Feb 7 2017 Press Release). Looks like it was the "developer" biit of the public...and Government stooges ? Finally, note the assurance : " great crested newt habitat is enhanced...making newt populations more healthy and resilient" (our bold). What shocking rubbish. It looks as though the new licensing rules will allow Natural England to literally "license" similar "improvements" to get round EU law on other protected species too. Did anyone in Parliament ever debate this ? In contrast, when all of the wideranhing and varied European nature protection laws were reviewed by Brussels and the European Parliament recently, they concluded that they worked well. Except for UK developers it seems.