Countdown for Wildlife: we need to Act Swiftly

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Nature-friendly farmers, planners, local authorities, wildlife experts and people who care about nature are being urged to seize a unique opportunity for new national farming and planning policies to reverse the decline of English wildlife.

Devon Wildlife Trust is asking everyone who wants to see nature’s fortunes improve to act swiftly and respond to government consultations on farming and planning which end in early May.

The consultations present a very rare opportunity – the first in living memory – to influence the future of both national farming and planning policy and how these impact on nature in England. Precious wild places and the species that depend on them have suffered catastrophic declines over the past 70 years – intensive farming and urbanisation have been major causes.* Now the public has a chance to call for a visionary approach to the environment – one that means planning rules and farm support and regulation work together towards the recovery of our nature and wildlife.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, Harry Barton, said:
“There has never been a more important time to stand up for wildlife and make our voice heard. Most of Devon’s amazing wildlife isn’t found in legally protected sites like Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is found in the many thousands of habitat fragments spread all over the county. Under the new planning proposals, few of these crucial wildlife havens can be guaranteed a secured future. And unless the new agriculture policy offers them protection, there will be little to stop these sites being cut down, ploughed or drained.

So we asking all those who care to please write to the government before 8th May deadline and ask them to ensure our Wildlife Sites are properly protected in planning decisions. And please encourage the government to ensure agricultural subsidies are used to reward farmers for protecting the environment and providing wider benefits to society, rather than intensifying production.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of the national body The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“There’s never been a better time to stand up for wildlife and make our voices heard. Decisions about housing and farming are fundamental to the future of wildlife in this country. They will determine whether we are able to lead the world in nature’s recovery by creating a Nature Recovery Network** or whether we will keep losing wildlife every day.”

The consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework is here; it closes on 10th May. The rules that guide planning for development will shape the future of housing. About 36 square miles of land are used by new developments every year and so the outcome of this consultation is hugely important for wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts want to see rules that:

• Protect wildlife and secure recognition of Local Wildlife Sites (which lose protection under the current proposals)
• Integrate wildlife habitats into new building developments – for the benefit of wildlife and people
• Commit to an improvement for wild species and habitats from all building development (known as ‘net biodiversity gain’)
• Require that new developments contribute to a national ‘Nature Recovery Network’ by including this in local planning strategies

The consultation on the future for food, farming and the environment is here; it closes on 8th May. It asks where public money, in the form of subsidies to farmers, should be spent in the future. It will also help to establish how the rules and standards for land management should be set and enforced. Farming practices are one of the key reasons for wildlife decline in the countryside, so if we want nature’s recovery we need a revolution in the way that farmland is managed. What works for wildlife will be good for people, too. Farmers need healthy soils and large populations of pollinators, like bees, to grow crops. We need clean, healthy water running into our rivers. We need a wildlife-rich countryside to relax in. To ensure this, The Wildlife Trusts want to see rules that:

1. Reward farmers and land managers for the benefits they provide for society, like clean water, healthy soils and a wildlife-rich countryside
2. Replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a system that supports public benefits and environmental outcomes for society
3. Changes the culture of regulation, making it easier for farmers to help nature without being weighed down by paperwork, inspections and bureaucracy

More information about The Wildlife Trusts’ #ActSwiftly campaign can be found here. Swifts arrive back to the UK in late April and early May. The swift is a bird that needs towns and the countryside to nest and feed in; it is emblematic of the need for wildlife-rich habitats in both environments.

Tagged with: Species, Act Swiftly, Devon Wildlif eTrust, The Wildlife Trusts