Planning changes – England needs a Wildbelt to protect land in recovery

England's planning system is changing, and we're exploring what this means in this blog series. Read on to hear about Wildbelt...

It’s imperative that planning system reforms for England address the intertwined ecological, climate and health crises – we believe the best way to do so is by ensuring place-making intentionally supports nature’s recovery. 

We’ve put forward five principles to underpin planning system changes including a bold new designation to protect new land that’s recovering – we would call this ‘Wildbelt’.

Why propose a whole new designation?

Because there is a gaping hole in the environmental protections basket: a mechanism to protect land that is in recovery. Existing law and policy protects the most special sites for nature, but not the places where people are working hard to create new habitats and bring nature back.

Evidence shows that healthy communities need nature, and the government must plan nature into every one of their proposed zones, whether it’s a Growth, Renewal or Protected area.
Craig Bennett
Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

What would a Wildbelt look like?

A Wildbelt would allow land of low biodiversity value which is about to be, or is in the process of being, managed to enable recovery to be properly designated for that very purpose. It would ensure that the time and money invested in bringing nature back to that site was secured for the future, by protecting the site against future changes in land use. 

Examples of areas that would be suitable could include agricultural land that’s being reverted to species-rich grassland; land in local communities that’s being managed to enhance its biodiversity and give people more nature on their doorstep; dry peatland that is being restored to provide natural solutions to climate change. None of these sites would qualify for a designation in the current system - but they would all need protecting if those efforts are to succeed.

Incorporating a Wildbelt into the suite of designations would also speed the creation of the Nature Recovery Network to which the Government is already committed.

We don’t envision a Wildbelt just comprising of space for nature 'over there' - a Wildbelt must also reach into every part of England, from rural areas to towns and cities, keeping land that is put into recovery safe and ensuring we can see at least 30% of land recovering by 2030.

Read more about Wildbelt

The planning system is part of the way society plans what it needs for the future and it must help us prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. If our principles are applied to the planning reforms, the planning system could end up enabling a strong, healthy and just society that lives within its environmental limits.

Truly sustainable development is possible without compromising a healthier, wilder future for communities. 

But the Government won’t tackle the climate, ecological and health crises (which also contribute to the economic difficulties the country faces) without taking a closer look at how to integrate the benefits and needs of nature into the planning system – we must ensure strong principles form the foundation of the planning system.

Please help us put nature back into planning! Back our principles in the Government’s consultation and show your support for a Wildbelt.

5 Principles to Rewild England's Planning System

The Wildlife Trusts want to see: 

1. Wildlife recovery and people’s easy access to nature at the heart of planning reform.

2. No weakening of nature protection policies and standards.

3. The ecological and climate crises addressed by protecting new land put into recovery by creating a new designation - Wildbelt.

4. People and local stakeholders able to engage with the planning system at the point where it is most meaningful to them.

5. Decisions based on accurate and up to date nature data.