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Making Space for Nature: An Official Review

January 1, 2011 2010 Winter No Comments

Making Space for Nature: a Review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network Chaired by Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS Report submitted to the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 15 September 2010.

In September 2009, Hilary Benn, the then Secretary of State for DEFRA, commissioned a review from fourteen eminent scientists, chaired by Sir John Lawton CBE FRS, to advise how the Government could further enhance ecological England; and in May this year, Caroline Spelman, the new Secretary of State in the Coalition Government urged the Lawton Committee to carry on with its work.

The panel, which included three Fellows of the Royal Society, concluded that England needs a step-change in its approach to nature conservation, which will rebuild nature and create amore resilient natural environment for the benefit of wildlife and ourselves. This will need improved collaboration between local authorities, local communities, statutory agencies, the voluntary and private sectors, farmers, other land managers, and individual citizens.

The Committee makes 24 detailed recommendations, which are designed to achieve five main aims. These are to

  • 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.

Welcoming the Lawton report, the current Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, said that the Report “was right to challenge us over what it takes to address the loss of biodiversity”, and that “we must work together to find innovative ways to protect and enhance our wildlife habitats.” Despite the comparative failure of the international discussions in Nagoya, Japan, the Coalition Government soon intends to spell out its detailed policy conclusions in the first Natural Environment White Paper to be published in twenty years. It is already clear, therefore, that many detailed discussions on how to implement the proposals of the Lawton Report, will soon have to take place at the local, as well as the national, level. The Friends of Brandy Hole Copse will be ready to play an active role in those discussions at both the local and the county levels.

Vincent Porter

Beyond NIMBYism

January 1, 2011 2010 Winter No Comments

In the last issue of the Newsletter, we indicated that the freedom offered to local councils by the Coalition Government provided Chichester District Council with a window of opportunity to establish a long-term strategy for future for the Copse. The Council has now established an annual limit of 430 housing units, that is 8,600 units over the period of the plan. The key issue for the Council’s planners, therefore, is now to decide precisely where those houses should be built.

A new input into the debate has come from the publication of the Lawton Review, Making Space for Nature, a year-long review which takes the planning debate beyond NIMBYism (see review here). There are two key proposals from the Lawton Committee which Chichester District Council will need to consider as it revises its Local Development Framework. These are to increase the size of current wildlife sites, and to establish wildlife corridors which provide connections between neighbouring wildlife sites. Both proposals could affect CDC’s long-term strategy for Brandy Hole Copse. In particular, they will probably affect the future both of the field to the south of the Copse, and the land to the west of Centurion Way.

A quick look at the map highlights the importance of the field to the south of the Copse in preserving the ecology of the Copse, and of the land to the west of Centurion Way in establishing corridors which will link the Copse with other nature reserves both to the north and to the south, and in preserving links with the wooded areas to the west and the north-west of the Copse, such as Kingley Vale. No lasting solution can be achieved without proper consultation with the landowners involved, but the strategic challenge for Chichester’s councillors is now clear. Despite a reduced budget, can they meet their housing needs, while still preserving sufficient space for nature?

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