Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is backing calls for a new designation – Wildbelt – to allow nature’s recovery across the UK

New analysis of the Government’s White Paper, Planning for the Future, has revealed that, as they currently stand, the proposed reforms will increase the threat to nature in England and do little to create better homes and communities for wildlife and people.

Based on their analysis, The Wildlife Trusts movement is calling on the Government to commit to five principles to be applied to future planning which would ensure the reforms can address the climate and ecological crises and people’s need for nature around them. One of these principles would, for the first time, protect new land put into nature’s recovery. For this, The Wildlife Trusts movement is proposing a new protection mechanism called Wildbelt.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The new planning reforms currently propose an algorithm-based system that’s dependent on non-existent data. That is a system that will fail nature and lead to more loss.

“Evidence shows that healthy communities need nature and the government must map out a Nature Recovery Network across every one of their proposed zones, whether it’s a growth, renewal or protected area. We’re proposing five principles to ensure the planning system helps nature and we want to see a bold new designation which will protect new land that’s put into recovery - we’re calling this Wildbelt.”

Kate Dewey, Senior Planning Officer for Staffordshire, said: “Locally, the Staffordshire County Council site, Redhill Business Park in Stafford, is a great example and was shortlisted for an environmental award. It conserves an important wetland and large great crested newt population, and features new meadows created by SWT and a circular walk for visitors. It’s more like a park than an industrial estate and has been very popular with major tech companies.

“The National Football Centre near Burton is another example, combining world-class sports facilities and a hotel with a historic parkland and two local wildlife sites. The centre has its own biodiversity action plan and a steering group which helps ensure it enhances the local environment. There are meadows, bluebell woodland, newt ponds and long-horn cattle grazing beneath the veteran trees which have been carefully avoided.

“This is what green development looks like and it is exactly what the county needs.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ five principles are:

1. Wildlife recovery and people’s easy access to nature must be put at the heart of planning reform by mapping a Nature Recovery Network

2. Nature protection policies and standards must not be weakened, and assessment of environmental impact must take place before development is permitted

3. Address the ecological and climate crises by protecting new land put into recovery by creating a new designation – Wildbelt

4. People and local stakeholders must be able to engage with the planning system

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

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet and the government has committed to reversing wildlife declines. A successful planning system is crucial to securing the recovery of nature and creating healthy communities with natural green space on people’s doorsteps, no matter how dense the housing. However, The Wildlife Trusts, who respond to thousands of planning applications every year and are taking part in the White Paper consultation, believe the new Government proposals will make a bad situation worse.

The Wildlife Trusts will be responding to the Government consultation and are urging the public to rewild the planning system by responding too at http://wtru.st/do-not-fail-wildlife. The deadline is 29th October 2020

For more information email Jon Owen, Press Officer at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, on j.owen@staffs-wildlife.org.uk