The impact of development on wildlife
Development should not come at the expense of our natural environment. All development, be it housing, commercial or infrastructure must be designed and delivered in a way that contributes to nature’s recovery, not its decline.
Planning for development and nature
The Government is undertaking the biggest drive for housebuilding in 70 years, with the infrastructure needed to support this. This could cause huge damage to wildlife and wild places. We are seeing the loss of irreplaceable ancient woodlands, wildflower meadows, wetlands and other rare habitats due to development happening in the wrong place. Schemes to protect rare species are often ineffective and wildlife becomes restricted to increasingly fragmented areas. At the same time, people living in urban areas are increasingly cut off from the natural world, to the detriment of their health and wellbeing. But this does not need to happen. We need to plan for nature in the same way that we plan for built development.
What The Wildlife Trusts are doing
The Wildlife Trusts work with national and local government, businesses and local communities to influence planning and development to achieve better outcomes for wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts respond to around 6,500 planning applications per year, and tens of thousands more are vetted and checked for impacts on wildlife.
It is essential to ensure that everyone has a home. And people’s homes must give them the opportunity to have a good quality of life. This means giving people daily access to nature which we know is essential for people’s mental and physical health. It means considering how homes will be affected by a changing climate and building features that protect people from the impacts.
But there is a worsening housing crisis. The calls for many more houses to be built have increased the pressure on nature but have not solved the housing problem. We do not think it is necessary to choose between housing and nature. We believe it is possible to provide the homes people need and make space for nature too.
We discuss these issues in our briefing on housing. This sets out principles for home-building which will actively contribute to reducing climate impacts, help nature to recover and tackle health inequalities.
National infrastructure, including transport
The infrastructure that supports society: transport, communications, energy and green infrastructure, should be delivered and maintained in a sustainable way that minimises the contribution to climate change and delivers a net gain for wildlife.
Climate change is probably the greatest long-term threat to biodiversity, and the majority of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions now come from transport, according to government figures. We need to move towards sustainable transport solutions and renewable energy supplies, but it is essential that these do not increase negative impacts on the environment. Natural habitats exist in increasingly fragmented locations. Road and rail routes create barriers that can prevent wildlife moving freely. But with good design and management they can also provide corridors through areas that are less hospitable to wildlife such as urban development. The Wildlife Trusts support sustainable transport solutions and renewable energy, provided that schemes are delivered in a way that avoids damage to wildlife.
A Nature Recovery Network
We work to influence the policy that sets the rules which govern where and how development happens. This means providing advice to government on how to ensure local planning authorities have the right tools available to set strong policies to protect, restore and enhance wildlife. Then working at a local level to provide advice that helps this to happen.
We are promoting the planning of a Nature Recovery Network, which will allow development to be located in areas which are less important for nature. It can be used to target activity that will contribute to enhancing biodiversity.
Alongside this we are working to influence government strategies currently being produced to ensure that development delivers an overall improvement in the natural world (a 'net biodiversity gain').