Making Space for Nature: A review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network by Professor Sir John Lawton (Sept 2010)
Making Space for Nature concluded that England’s collection of wildlife sites does not comprise a coherent and resilient ecological network that is capable of coping with the challenge of climate change and other pressures. To make space for nature we need more, bigger, better and joined up sites to create a sustainable, resilient and more effective ecological network for England.
Practically this requires actions under five headings:
- Improve the quality of current sites by better habitat management.
- Increase the size of current wildlife sites.
- Enhance connections between, or join up, sites, either through physical corridors, or through ‘stepping stones’.
- Create new sites.
- Reduce the pressures on wildlife by improving the wider environment, including through buffering wildlife sites.
These actions will help to establish an ecological network that meets the needs for wildlife and people today, and one that is more resilient to the future.
In “Making Space for Nature, it identified Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the largest of all the protected areas, as having great potential “to establish a coherent and resilient ecological network”. “Think big: ecological recovery in protected landscapes” a joint response to this by National Parks and AONBs recognised that in order to realise this ambition, the land being under some form of agricultural, forestry or game management, it is critical that habitat improvement and creation becomes part of sustainable land management systems and businesses and provides adequate reward for land managers.
Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) – The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature (June 2011)
Largely influenced by Making Space for Nature, this White Paper set out four ambitions, three of which are key targets for AONB Partnerships:
- Protecting and improving our natural environment
- Growing a green economy
- Reconnecting people and nature
Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England's wildlife and ecosystem services
Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England's wildlife and ecosystem services (2011) outlines the strategic direction for biodiversity policy for the next decade on land (including rivers and lakes) and at sea, building upon the Natural Environment White Paper, and is the UK Government national commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Biodiversity 2020 outcomes will be delivered through actions in four areas:
- a more integrated large-scale approach to conservation on land and at sea;
- putting people at the heart of biodiversity policy;
- reducing environmental pressures;
- improvement of knowledge.
The NAAONB are part of the Terrestrial Biodiversity Group set up to provide Defra with partner/ stakeholder input to the Biodiversity Strategy 2020 annual delivery plan.
AONB Partnerships are expected to assist delivery of a number of Biodiversity 2020 Outcomes including:
Outcome 1c – By 2020, at least 17% of land and inland water, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, conserved through effective, integrated and joined up approaches to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services including through management of our existing systems of protected areas and the establishment of nature improvement areas
Outcome 1b “an increase in the overall extent of priority habitats by at least 200,000 ha.” The habitat creation aspiration for which is to be measured within NCAs and NIAs geographical areas.
Action 1.1.9 states: Encourage and support new and existing large scale initiatives for improved ecological networks across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) designated landscapes.’ Biodiversity and ecosystem targets are required to be integrated into all AONB Management Plans to meet the challenge of Outcome 1c.
As a Partnership, by 2020 we will have put in place measures so that biodiversity is maintained and enhanced, further degradation has been halted and where possible, restoration is underway, helping deliver more resilient and coherent ecological networks, healthy and well-functioning ecosystems, which deliver multiple benefits for people and wildlife.
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012
The National Planning Policy Framework replaced the majority of previous Planning Policy Statements. The NPPF confirmed, amongst other things, a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which requires the planning system to have a positive approach to performing economic, social and environmental roles. Councils are expected to approve development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay and to grant permission where a development plan is absent, silent or policies are out of date, unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
Section 115 states that ‘great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.’
Under Section 117, planning policies should plan for biodiversity at a landscape-scale across local authority boundaries;
- identify and map components of the local ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity, wildlife corridors and stepping stones that connect them and areas identified by local partnerships for habitat restoration or creation;
- promote the preservation, restoration and re-creation of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species populations, linked to national and local targets, and identify suitable indicators for monitoring biodiversity in the plan;
- aim to prevent harm to geological conservation interests; and
- where Nature Improvement Areas are identified in Local Plans, consider specifying the types of development that may be appropriate in these areas.
Further reference to local authoritie’s consideration of ecological networks and green infrastructure is made in Section 114 ‘Local planning authorities should set out a strategic approach in their Local Plans, planning positively for the creation, protection, enhancement and management of networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure;
Under Section 28, the NPPF requires that planning policies ‘support the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas, both through conversion of existing buildings and well designed new buildings’.
In relation to the challenges of climate change the NPPF Section 10 states:
‘Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change, and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.’
United Kingdom National Ecosystem Assessment (June 2011)
The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) was the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and our continuing economic prosperity.
The assessment provides values for a range of services we gain from nature to help us fully understand the worth of the natural environment and how the benefits to individuals and society as a whole can be better protected and preserved for future generations. It stresses the need for a more collaborative approach to enhancing our environment, with everyone playing their part to embrace more of nature’s benefits, which is where our work in the Mendip Hills comes in and evidences the crucial role that we can play. (See 1.5 The benefits of the Mendip Hills to society).
 The UK National Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis of Key Findings http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/Resources/tabid/82/Default.aspx