Following two major recent Government consultations on farming and planning, Avon Wildlife Trust is calling for a new way forward to reverse the decline in English wildlife and influence policy on how we build new developments and farm the land in the future. AWT chief executive, Ian Barrett, has today met Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset, at the Trust’s Weston Moor nature reserve in the Gordano Valley, and asked him to use his voice to press for stronger protections for nature and wildlife in planning and farming policy to ensure there are wild places and species within our region and across England for future generations to enjoy.
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.* As the Government considers the responses to the two recent public consultations, the Wildlife Trusts are urging a new approach which means planning rules and farm support and regulation work together towards the recovery of our nature and wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a Nature Recovery Network - a joined-up system of places important for wild plants and animals, which would include landscape-scale areas allowing wildlife to move, shelter and thrive in urban and rural settings.
Ian Barrett, Avon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive, says:
“This is a critical time to stand up for wildlife. Decisions about housing and farming are fundamental to wildlife’s future and the right policies now will mean we can create a Nature Recovery Network and stop the continuing loss of our wildlife. Across North Somerset there is an enormous pressure on wildlife and habitats from proposed housing and it’s vital we balance the need for homes with protecting the valuable landscapes and rare species we have. Today was a was a good opportunity to hear Liam Fox’s views on these issues and how we strike this balance.”
The West of England Joint Spatial Plan, published in January, identified locations for future development in North Somerset, including proposals to build 7,850 new houses in and around Backwell, Banwell, Nailsea and Churchill – areas Avon Wildlife Trust views as inappropriate for this scale of building. These locations include some of the few remaining wetlands in the UK and are internationally important areas for bats and other wildlife, and development risks causing significant damage to wildlife networks. AWT is calling for North Somerset Council to consider alternative locations.
As well as showing Liam Fox what’s at stake for Avon’s landscapes in future farming policy, and discussing development plans across his constituency, Ian Barrett talked about the urgent need for wildlife to be taken more seriously in all planning decisions, including calling for protection for Local Wildlife Sites to be reinstated. There are 847 Local Wildlife Sites across Avon – areas of open space rich in wildlife. They provide the best places for wildlife in towns as well as villages and need safeguarding from any development.
More information on The Wildlife Trusts national #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.
Contact: Naomi Fuller, Avon Wildlife Trust Communications Manager Naomi.Fuller@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk 0117 9177270 mobile 07458 091433
*For information about wildlife decline see the latest State of Nature report, 2016. It shows more clearly than ever before that nature is in serious decline across the UK. Over the last 50 years, 56% of species have declined, while 15% are at risk of disappearing from our shores altogether. For the main drivers of decline turn to pp 12 & 13 of the actual report pdf here.
** A nature recovery network is a plan for wildlife and the environment. It is a map which sets out the key sites that need to be protected, the wildlife corridors connecting those sites, and additional areas where there should be healthier habitats and more wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts believe that without a plan like this, there will be no real progress.
Avon Wildlife Trust
Avon Wildlife Trust is the largest local charity working to protect wildlife and inspire people in the West of England area – with the support of 18,000 members, 1,500 volunteers and corporate support. We care for 30 nature reserves - from ancient bluebell woods to Iron Age forts, nationally important wetlands, and wildflower meadows. We run award-winning educational and community programmes. And we work with landowners in the wider countryside, to reduce the decline in wildlife by creating a Living Landscape.