Nature at the heart of decision making… #actfornature

In the sixth week of our general election blog series, our theme is Nature at the Heart of Decision Making. As we talked about last week, it can be easy to move nature down the list of governmental or social priorities, whether that is by underestimating the value of natural resources, or by putting other issues first. Planning applications can be a very clear example of this – the need for housing, new developments, business parks and offices can sometimes be put above the needs of local wildlife. It is a concern that is raised with us very often, and as such Gina, our Living Landscapes Manager, is taking the opportunity to explain how Warwickshire Wildlife Trust deals with planning applications.

We live in a crowded county, with many pressures on the use of land.  Over the last 250 years, the impact human use of land has increased as our population has increased, and our use of resources and infrastructure needs for energy, transport and waste have grown.

Our wildlife has had to adapt to these changes, with some species living alongside us easily, whereas others have moved away or been lost from our county due to lack of the right environment for their requirements. Often, our remaining areas of semi-natural habitat are surrounded by built up areas, or by intensively farmed land, and many are isolated from other wild areas, which restricts the movement of species between sites.

Nature in the urban environment - copyright Paul Hobson 2015
Nature in the urban environment – copyright Paul Hobson 2015
Urban wildflowers - copyright Paul Hobson 2015
Urban wildflowers – copyright Paul Hobson 2015

This means that decisions on the use of land are crucial for our wildlife and its survival.

What does Warwickshire Wildlife Trust do about this?
Every week, volunteers carefully check all planning application lists across the 8 local authority areas. In 2014, we investigated 245 applications in more detail, and submitted responses in detail to 24 major applications. In some cases we register objections, especially where the application would lead to the loss of a Local Wildlife Site, designated of county importance for biodiversity, or impacts on one of our Wildlife Trust reserves.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust works hard to influence both specific planning decisions and the policies which guide them, to ensure that all planning proposals make a positive contribution towards the protection and enhancement of wildlife and wild places. We work with developers to protect key sites and secure mitigation for any losses.

Balancing the needs of people and wildlife is a complex responsibility - image copyright Tom Marshall tommarshallphoto.co.uk 2015
Balancing the needs of people and wildlife is a complex responsibility – image copyright Tom Marshall tommarshallphoto.co.uk 2015

Time and resources
Like everyone, we have to choose what we spend time on to get most effect. We focus our resources on responding to applications where the impacts on wildlife will be the greatest or where there are good opportunities for positive improvements. This includes:

  • Major residential, commercial or infrastructure schemes;
  • Applications affecting nationally or locally designated wildlife sites; and
  • Applications affecting Wildlife Trust reserves.

We comment on applications impacting on ancient woodland, rare grasslands and important wetlands, aiming to retain existing valuable habitat.

By working with local authorities and commenting on their Local Development Plans, we influence policies which set the framework for biodiversity in the planning process.

We are working to a wide, 50 year vision of Living Landscapes, restoring, recreating and reconnecting wildlife-rich large areas in rural and urban areas by working in partnership with local communities, landowners, schools and businesses.

Currently we are active on the ground in Tame Valley Wetlands and in Princethorpe Woodlands Living Landscape areas, and are working with local partners in Arden area and along the river Avon.

We campaign to ensure that the Living Landscape vision is integral to the policies of all planning documents.

Everyone can help by:

  • Being an active planning campaigner – use our new planning guidance leaflets.
  • Record your local wildlife, send information of date, location – postcode or grid reference, species, your name to Warwickshire Biological Record Centre.  This will help to note presence of wildlife when developers are checking records.
  • Register comments on planning applications which will have a negative impact on wildlife. Contact us if it is a major application.
  • Respond to consultations with regards to local plans, flood risk and river management.
  • Stand up for wildlife and be its voice.

Gina

Do your bit to protect wildlife by casting your vote for nature – sign The Wildlife Trusts’ e-petition urging MPs to pledge their support for a Nature and Wellbeing Act. Follow the campaign on social media using #actfornature and inspire your friends and family to do their bit for nature too!

Remember to return to this blog next Thursday at 8pm for the next installment in our General Election series. Or click the “Follow” button on the right of this post to follow our blog and receive a notification whenever we post.

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