Posted 2nd May 2018 by Peter Byrne
A new report from The Wildlife Trusts, Towards a wilder Britain - creating a Nature Recovery Network, has outlined how new laws could create nature recovery maps, helping to reverse decades of declining wildlife
The new report lays out how a Nature Recovery Network can be established to map out important places for wildlife which require protection, along with key areas where habitats should be restored.
The Wildlife Trusts are calling for new laws, including an Environment Act, to make sure this happens, which would see Local Authorities being legally required to produce local Nature Recovery Maps to achieve new Government targets.
The report coincides with the final week of two key government consultations which are offering the public the opportunity to influence the future of national farming and planning policy, along with the impact they can have on nature in England.
Wildlife has significantly declined over the past 70 years, with intensive farming and urbanisation both responsible for the problems these precious wild places and the species that rely on them have faced.
The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to respond to the consultations, with the Government's 25-year Plan for the Environment proposing the creation of a Nature Recovery Network. This will be taken forward by Nature Recovery Maps, which will be at the foundation of future farming and planning policy, guiding habitat creation by farmers and housing developers to ensure it achieves government targets for the recovery of wildlife.
While there is currently protection for Local Wildlife Sites (these are important havens for wildlife that should be recognised in planning policy), they have been dropped from the draft National Planning Policy Framework, in a backward step that would undo the basic protection offered for 42,000 special places for wildlife.
Commenting on it, Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: "Nature is valuable for its own sake and is the foundation of our society and of our economy. Yet we have neglected its value for too long. We need to substantially improve our farming and planning policies which are currently up for review; and we need an ambitious Environment Act that puts nature’s recovery on to a statutory footing. The only way any of this can work is if there are Nature Recovery Maps in every part of the country. This can help build the Nature Recovery Network that future generations deserve."
The consultation on the future of food, farming and the environment can be viewed here.
Closing on 8th May, it asks where farming subsidies should be spent in the future, along with establishing rules and standards for land management, and how they should be set and enforced. Farming practices have played a significant role in wildlife declines seen in the countryside - if we want nature to recover, these methods need to be changed. What helps wildlife will also prove beneficial for us too - farmers need healthy soils and large populations of pollinators, including bees, to grow their crops.
To make sure of this, The Wildlife Trusts is calling for rules that:
- Reward farmers and land managers for the benefits they provide to society, including clean water, healthy soil and wildlife-rich countryside.
- Replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a system that offers public benefits and environmental outcomes for society.
- Change the culture of regulation, making it easier for farmers to aid nature without being weighed down by unnecessary bureaucracy.
The consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework can be viewed here. It closes on 10th May. The rules will guide planning for the future of housing. Each year, there will be around 36 square miles of land that are used for new developments, so the outcome of this consultation will prove to be highly significant for wildlife.
The Wildlife Trusts is calling for rules that:
- Protect wildlife and secure recognition of Local Wildlife Sites (these are losing protection under the current proposals)
- Integrate wildlife habitats into new developments for both wildlife and people
- Commit to improvements for wild species and habitats from development.
- Require new developments to contribute to a national 'Nature Recovery Network' by including this in local planning strategies.