Society shows an appetite for change

Monday 27th February 2012

Summer Leys, Nene Valley. Image: BCN Wildlife TrustSummer Leys, Nene Valley. Image: BCN Wildlife Trust

As a dozen new large-scale nature conservation sites are announced today, The Wildlife Trusts say this should be the start of something much bigger.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that for this Nature Improvement Area concept to be successful, the National Planning Policy Framework must provide explicit guidance to planning authorities on taking a more strategic and integrated approach to the natural environment.

The 12 new Nature Improvement Areas have been chosen in a competition which received more than 70 applications.  All were based on the recommendations of local people and with the aim of creating a step change in the recovery of the natural environment to benefit people, the local economy and wildlife.

Nature Improvement Areas have a role in helping to improve the health of the natural environment, to support food production and address habitat fragmentation, water quality, flood risk management and species loss.

The Wildlife Trusts, involved in 11 of the 12 areas, now urges the government to harness the positive momentum created through the competition process and extend the concept across England.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We are delighted this competition has demonstrated a real appetite for putting nature back after decades of decline through the large number of applications but 12 Nature Improvement Areas are not enough.  This concept should be driven forward everywhere across England and given formal recognition through the new planning process, expected next month, and agri-environment grants.

“We have an urgent need for the restoration and recovery of the natural environment to take place across a much larger area and quickly.  Our founder Charles Rothschild would have welcomed this move.  He worked hard to secure Government protection for wildlife sites as far back as the First World War.  He had to wait 37 years for nature conservation to make it onto the statute with the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act in 1949.”

As an organisation, The Wildlife Trusts has long known that a partnership-led, landscape-scale approach to conservation is the only way to secure nature’s recovery.  It is being practiced and championed through more than 100 Living Landscape schemes around the UK. As a result, The Wildlife Trusts will continue to work with farmers, landowners, local authorities and other partners to develop these ideas and look to Government to reaffirm its commitment to driving forward this policy.

The 12 Nature Improvement Areas:
Birmingham and the Black Country Living Landscape
Dark Peak
Dearne Valley Green Heart
Greater Thames Marshes
Humberhead Levels
Marlborough Downs
Meres and Mosses of the Marches
Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands
Nene Valley
Northern Devon
South Downs Way Ahead
Wild Purbeck

Read Minister Richard Benyon's article on The Wildlife Trusts and NIAs here.

More information from The Wildlife Trusts on NIAs can be found at

Contact information:

The Wildlife Trusts has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Contact
Anna Guthrie (Media & PR Manager)
Office: 01636 670075 / Mobile: 07887 754659

Tanya Perdikou (Media & Campaigns Officer)
Office: 01636 670057 / Mobile: 07887 754657

Notes for editors:

Nature Improvement Areas (NIA)
The Natural Environment White Paper made a commitment to establish Nature Improvement Areas.  This was based on TWT’s idea of Ecological Restoration Zones, included in the report Making Space for Nature.

Making Space for Nature was very clear about the role of ERZ in contributing to the ecological network: “Establishing a coherent and resilient ecological network requires careful planning to ensure the contributions made by existing network components are maximised and new components, such as planned restoration areas, corridors and buffers, are in effective places, thereby ensuring we use precious resources and land in the most efficient ways.”

NIAs should enhance the ecological network by undertaking the following actions:
• Improving the management of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the size of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the number of wildlife sites
• Improving connectivity between sites
• Creating wildlife corridors

The Government also adopted the idea of starting with 12 pilot areas and Defra allocated £7.5 million to support them over three years.  A panel shortlisted more than 70 applications to 15.  The final 12 NIAs have now been announced and details are on Defra's website.

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT)
There are 37 individual Wildlife Trusts in England.  All are actively engaged in the planning system, promoting opportunities to promote the natural environment and reviewing more than 70,000 planning applications last year.  The Wildlife Trusts have more than 740,000 members in England.  Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas.  We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife.  Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.