Sir Martin DoughtyMust try harder: that’s the verdict of England’s top conservation body following Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling’s first budget.

Natural England chair Sir Martin Doughty

Natural England, which is charged with looking after the country’s landscape and environment, says bolder measures must be taken to boost a greener approach and protect the countryside in the wake of climate change. Taxing tourism should also be considered.

Sir Martin Doughty, Natural England’s chair, said: “The steps taken in today’s Budget are a move in the right direction to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, we encourage the Government to be more bold and innovative in its use of environmental taxation to help adaptation to the effects to climate change too.

“There will be implications for UK PLC if we do not enable the natural environment to become more resilient in the face of climate change. Resilient ecosystems contribute to a wide range of public services.”

The body, set up to replace various existing organisations such as the Countryside Commission and English Nature, has set itself a target of reducing its own carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2010. Its chief said charges on tourists could be used to direct money to conservation bodies such as Natural England.

Sir Martin said: “New, innovative approaches and dependable sources of funding over the long-term are needed if we are to secure the future of our natural environment. For example, tourism taxes or user charges could, if designed in the right way, provide additional sources of funding.

“There is also an important role for instruments such as the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy. Revenue-raising instruments of this kind should both mitigate any negative impacts of future developments on the natural environment whilst also providing a source of dedicated funding to ensure a net increase in high quality green infrastructure that is robust in the face of climate change.”

Government departments such as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have seen their funding squeezed as the Government’s finances tighten with economic slowdown. Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England’s chief executive, described its recent £176m budget settlement from Defra as ‘challenging’