Sadiq Khan slapped down by campaigners over new ‘vote winner’ eco policy

Kay Burley challenges Sadiq Khan over ULEZ expansion

Sadiq Khan has been warned that a new environmental policy will prove much more divisive than he believes.

The London mayor has been warned he risks “falling into the trap” of forcing London-centric policies on the countryside, after calling for beavers to be released across the country under a Labour Government.

Speaking to the Guardian he criticised Environment Secretary Therese Coffey that she’s refusing to “bring beavers back”.

He said: “They know the evidence about beavers, helping protect ecosystems, and one of the points I’m saying to the Labour team nationally is not only is this the right thing to do for our environment, for our communities, it is a vote-winner – a no-brainer.”

Mr Khan added rewinding is “exciting” and would give voters “another reason to vote for use in the next general election”.

READ MORE: Beavers spark alarm of dangers if UK towns ‘heaving’ with rodents

However, Mr Khan has been slapped down by rural campaigners, who have warned such a policy is far from universally popular in the countryside.

The Countryside Alliance’s Chief Executive Tim Bonner told the Express: “For quite some time now, the Alliance has been warning the Labour Party about falling into the trap of pursuing and imposing urban-centric policies at the expense of rural communities”.

“While urban-based politicians might take a romantic, hedonistic view of expanding greenery, rewilding has become a divisive issue in the countryside, largely because its advocates show little to no regard for those living and working on the land where they propose species be introduced.

“While controlled, small-scale introduction projects for some species like beavers may have some benefits, proposing an unregulated, mass sanctioning of their release across the countryside could cause turmoil”.

Mr Bonner accused Mr Khan of promoting a “fun pet project”, and warned it would have “catastrophic consequences if isn’t tightly controlled and those that live on the ground aren’t fully consulted”.

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If Labour does consider such a policy for their 2024 election manifesto, the Countryside Alliance said there must be an exit strategy “for when something goes wrong”.

Ms Coffey has said her Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs will not be prioritising beaver releases.

Beavers became extinct in the UK in the 16th century, and rewilding advocates now claim releasing them back into the countryside would help with flood management and improve biodiversity.

Some farming groups, however, have argued beavers could have serious implications for farmland, such as blocking land drains in low arable areas.

Angling groups have similarly voiced concerns that beavers would not only threaten fisheries but exarchate the poor quality of Britain’s rivers.

The semiaquatic rodents can also spread diseases and destroy infrastructure such as flood defences, roads and railways.

In 2022 Mr Khan awarded £600,000 as part of the ‘Rewind London Fund’ after a pair of beavers were released in Enfield.

Unfortunately, one male soon died of natural sources and a second replacement male also died.

The original female was later “removed”.

Rewilding advocates have called for a number of species to be reintroduced into the UK countryside, including lynx, bison, wild boar, wolves and even bears.

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