EXMOOR-BASED environmental campaigner Stanley Johnson joined MP Rebecca Pow as Taunton Deane held its first Environmental Forum on Friday night with a lively debate at Stoke St Mary Village Hall.

Arguing that from an environmental perspective, Britain would be better off remaining in the EU following the upcoming referendum, the evening covered topics including nuclear power, beaches, farming, air quality and even lawnmower noise.

Mr Johnson is the father of Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the leave campaign, but differentiates from his son on the hottest topic in UK politics.

Stanley explained about his time as Head of Prevention of Pollution Division at the European Commission from 1973-1979, saying there was a strong case for European level legislation on environmental issues such as air quality.

"You see air shifts from one country to another," Mr Johnson said. "Now I worked on the Habitats Directive, which provides another layer of protection on these sorts of issues. Some may say that we have a sovereign right to destroy our environment but that seems rather short-sighted to me."

"Say you wanted to build an airport on an estuary on the River Thames in London, but there are birds that fly in and use that habitat some months of the year from Siberia.

"Well, the government may well turn round and say 'We don’t own those birds', but the directive is supra-national meaning the same standards apply to all member states so the bird's habitat has to be taken into consideration."

Mr Johnson also talked about how he had written the EU directive on the quality of bathing water for swimmers, saying that the blue flag system was very effective, as it means there is constant pressure to keep up environmental standards.

"The EU provides a bigger picture when it comes the environment, whereas governments tend to think on quite a short term basis," Stanley said.

Questions from the audience came regarding marine conservation, rewriting of laws, Hinkley C and farming.

"We are far from self-sufficient in this country, we still need to import 35 per cent of our food," Rebecca Pow said.

"The largest driving factor is to get people cheap food and in relative terms the price here is low. As much as people like to say there will a removal of red tape if we leave the EU and we will grow all our own food, you have to ask yourself, would it really be Osborne and the rest’s priority? As much as people like me would like it to be I am not sure," she added.

Speaking after the event, Ms Pow said she thrilled at holding Taunton Deane's first environmental forum, saying it was a fantastic turnout with really good questions from the audience.

"There is a real feeling that people want environmental issues to rise on the agenda when politicians are discussing the referendum," she said.