THE UK Government’s proposed “Levelling Up Bill” will allow the Tories in London to undermine and “rewrite” devolved laws, environmental groups have warned.

Charities from all four nations in the UK have urged the London government to walk back on plans, which the Scottish Government said would give Tory ministers the power to “override” environmental protections in the devolved nations.

Four coalition groups – Wildlife and Countryside LINK, Scottish Environment LINK, Wales Environment LINK, and Northern Ireland Environment LINK – have written a letter to the UK Government urging them to reconsider provisions in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

They say the bill would weaken protections for nature by handing Tory ministers “the power to scrap and rewrite, by secondary legislation, environmental protections set out in primary legislation”.

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“Henry VIII powers” will allow ministers to replace the current system of environmental impact assessments. These in-depth documents have to be consulted as part of the planning process for larger developments, as well as some medium-sized ones, and often aid the design process.

The four coalitions say that this will be replaced with a new system of Environmental Outcome Reports – including in areas of devolved competence – without the consent of the devolved administrations.

Dan Paris, an advocacy manager at Scottish Environment LINK, wrote on Twitter: “The Levelling Up Bill would hand UK Ministers the power to rewrite devolved environmental laws.”

However, the UK Government rejected claims the bill would encroach in devolved areas.

They said the plans will “introduce a clearer and simpler process where relevant plans and projects are assessed against tangible environmental outcomes set by government, rather than in Brussels”.

In a letter to Levelling Up Minister Greg Clark, the four coalitions wrote: “These proposals are of serious concern to our members because they have the potential to weaken the protection of the environment.

“Our organisations and members have no specific constitutional position; however, we note that under the current arrangements, within the UK, the environment is considered a devolved matter.

“The Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive have developed and legislated for distinctive environmental policies in their jurisdictions. In some cases, we applaud these policies, in others we have argued for different approaches – however, in all cases, they should be scrutinised, agreed and approved by their respective Parliament or Assembly with engagement of civil society at various stages.

“Yet, as it stands, Part 5 of the above bill extends to the whole of the UK and any proposed EOR regulations containing provisions within the devolved competences must be subject only to consultation with the relevant devolved administration."

A spokesperson said the Scottish Government could not support the provisions in the bill.

They said: "We cannot support the provisions in this bill that would effectively give UK Government Ministers powers to override these environmental protections in Scotland.

“We are deeply concerned that this may lead to significant divergence if England abandons the current environmental assessment processes that are applied across the UK and which follow a similar framework, share a common legislative heritage, and align with EU regulations.

"We welcome the Environmental charities’ support for proper recognition of devolved competence for the environment in the bill.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We reject these claims entirely.

“Our Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill puts environmental protection at the heart of planning and development.

“We are working closely with devolved administrations as we bring forward these changes, ensuring we respect devolution settlements.”