Act swiftly to save our wildlife

Saturday 7th April 2018

Swift by John BridgesSwift by John Bridges

Wildlife in Lancashire has been deeply affected by housing development and agricultural planning for 100 years.

Houses, factories and roads swept across important areas for wildlife and hedgerows disappeared as fields grew to cope with intensive farming, as populations grew along with the need to feed them.

And this hit nature hard – hedgehog numbers plummeted from millions in the UK to less than 800,000 and many species of bird tumbled, birds of prey, sparrows, willow tits and twite saw populations fall dangerously in the North West.

Now, we are asking nature lovers to “Act Swiftly” and help to improve farming and planning rules to save our wildlife.

Campaigns Manager Alan Wright said: “If we could see like a swift flying over the Manchester, Liverpool or Lancashire, we’d see how our housing, hedges, gardens, rivers, verges could be wilder and more joined-up, to give wildlife the space it needs to thrive and move around.”

The Government is asking people to get involved in two consultations. The first is to ask for views on a major overhaul of the rules that guide planning for development: the National Planning Policy Framework.

Alan said: “Whether this is one or two houses at the end of the road, or a major 5,000 house development, these rules will shape the future of housing. It sets out the way that different kinds of development should be located, designed and built, and what schools, shops and other services are needed.

“About 36 square miles of land are used by new developments every year in the UK, so the outcome of this consultation is hugely important for wildlife.”

In another consultation the Government is asking for views on where public money, in the form of subsidies to farmers, will be spent in the future. It will also help to establish how the rules and standards for land management should be set and enforced.

Alan said: “If we are to secure nature’s recovery we need a revolution in the way that we manage our farmland. What works for wildlife will be good for people, too. Farmers need healthy soils and huge populations of pollinators, like bees, to grow crops.

“We need clean, healthy water running into our rivers. We need a wildlife-rich countryside to spend time in, and feel happier and healthier as a consequence.”

The Wildlife Trusts nationally see this as a rare chance to ask for a much more visionary approach to the environment – to call for planning rules and farm support and regulation to point in the same direction – towards nature’s recovery. ThiSwift by John Bridgess is perfectly possible but a nationwide network of wildlife needs to be mapped out.

Alan said: “We think this is clear to a swift. Swifts spend almost all of their time in the sky swooping over fields and rooftops. With their bird’s eye view, they can see how agriculture overlaps with our buildings and roads. They can see how our towns are growing. They can see when hedgerows go and fields get bigger and when beautiful woods or meadows are lost.

“They can see both the catastrophic changes to the landscapes we love and the miraculous improvements we sometimes bring about, in a way that we simply can’t.

“We all need nature. People need nature around them in the places where we live and work to improve their quality of life. Farmers need healthy soils and habitats to grow food, avoid polluting rivers and ensure pollinators like bees have the habitat they require. A plan that puts wildlife at its heart will be amazing for people, too.”

Anyone wanting to help at this critical time can have their say in the consultations here. The deadlines are May 10 for the planning consultation and May 8 for the farming consultation. It’s time to act swiftly!

Planning

The Wildlife Trusts want to see rules that:

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

Farming

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. Make it easier for farmers to help nature through changing the culture of regulation, including through better use of technology to identify where farmers and land managers are following the rules (which would free up more time for delivery)