Natural Environment White Paper - Richard Benyon

Natural Environment White Paper

Richard BenyonOur Natural Environment White Paper, launched in June, is the first in 20 years, and sets out our vision for next 50 years. It follows on directly from our promise to be the greenest government ever.

But what does it mean for you?

Wildlife Trusts should feel a real pride in this document. Wildlife Trust members were among the 15,000 respondents to the discussion paper we launched last summer. They chivvied ministers and officials to produce something that would really make a difference: not just another Government document to be read by a few geeks and then lie on a shelf gathering dust.

This White Paper is about igniting energy. It sets out to harness society’s love of nature, and use it to halt and reverse the alarming decline in our flora and fauna.

It commits to making it easier for conservation organisations to achieve real and lasting change.

Encouraging people to get involved

The UK’s conservation charities are a national asset. If it wasn’t for them and their members our natural environment would be in a much sorrier state. The Wildlife Trusts are a great example, caring for more than 2,250 nature reserves.
We will be encouraging more people to get involved in nature conservation work, whether it’s through the big charities or with local groups. There’ll be a new MuckIn4Life programme to involve more people in improving their local area. And we’ll be making environmental information more easily available, including through the new My Environment web portal.

Local Nature Partnerships

These will bring organisations, land managers, businesses and local authorities together to improve nature in their locality.

We will be supporting Local Nature Partnerships. These will bring conservation organisations, land managers, businesses and local authorities working together to improve nature in their locality. Of course there are already many highly effective local partnerships, usually with one main focus. We want to help existing partnerships to widen their focus and see ways of achieving multiple benefits: for example, on water and air quality, biodiversity and climate change adaptation.

To help build both new and existing partnerships’ capacity, we are providing £1 million in 2011/12.

A landscape-scale approach

So far our approach to nature conservation has been piecemeal: to help certain areas to flourish, ignoring the bits in between. Instead we need to adopt a ‘landscape scale’ approach, working in partnership to protect nature across administrative and other manmade boundaries.

So we’ll be encouraging local partnerships to create new, boundary-crossing Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). To inspire action we will set up a competition to identify 12 initial areas; and we’ll provide £7.5 million to help.

Biodiversity offsetting

There will always be a need for new buildings and other structures. But development must happen in a way respects nature. Biodiversity offsetting provides the opportunity for a developer to compensate for unavoidable loss to biodiversity by expanding or restoring habitats elsewhere. The White Paper announces new ‘biodiversity offsetting’ pilots, in which conservation organisations could play a key role, creating and managing the offsetting habitats.

Access to green space

We want to help local authorities and developers work to give everyone equal access to green spaces

What else? We want children to get out into the natural world. It’s good for their health and it helps them to learn. So we’ll be removing the barriers to schools taking children on school trips and teaching them outdoors.

In urban areas, poorer people are far less likely to have access to green space. We want to help local authorities and developers work to give everyone equal access to green spaces and all the benefits that go with them.

And we want to give communities the power to protect the green spaces they care about, and to create new ones.

Nature at the heart of everything we do

This White Paper is a rallying call to all of society - individuals, communities, businesses and Government. Together we can and must put nature in its rightful place: at the heart of everything we do.

- Richard Benyon, July 2011

Click here to find out more about the Natural Environment White Paper