The Ecology Consultancy sent a thorough response to the questions posed by the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in its latest consultation, “An Invitation to Shape the Nature of England” prior to the publication of a new Environment White Paper next year.
Our main concerns are:
- the ecology brain-drain – the increasing lack of independent expert advice, from local authorities to Natural England. We want to see more ecologists employed at all levels, to help ensure the true value of our natural resources is realised and that decisions are not based on what may be perceived to be of high nature conservation value (e.g. nitrate green fields)
- non-BAP habitats, such as species-poor neutral grassland, sedge beds and amenity grassland, have not been recognised in the DEFRA document. These habitats can be important for biodiversity, often providing foraging areas for bats and birds. We want to see such sites identified and protected as ‘common habitats with wildlife value’
- the Environmental Stewardship schemes should be tied in more effectively to green infrastructure polices, to deliver a coherent approach to biodiversity preservation. Land owners, farmers and managers, should be better rewarded for maintaining and enhancing biodiversity
- existing voluntary codes, such as CfSH and BREEAM, must be strengthened and we urge more government incentives to integrate green walls, green roofs etc. into existing and new developments: more awards in industry would encourage sectors to join in
- DEFRA’s view that ‘the long-term goal of an ‘ecosystems’ or ‘landscape’ approach to protecting biodiversity can be achieved by devolving all powers and decisions to the local community and local authorities’ is unworkable. We believe this would result in a greater piecemeal approach to development and land management practices – one that is open to nimbyism. We advocate greater support for landscape-scale and green infrastructure initiatives on a strategic basis
- Overall, we urge the Government to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the UK’s wildlife and biodiversity byrecognising the role of expert ecologists within the private, public and voluntary sectors and promoting the protection of important wildlife habitats regardless of prevailing social, economic and political pressures.
Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.