Planning reforms have been “paused”– what does that mean for wildlife?
The planning system shapes the places where we live and work, but it also has a profound impact on wildlife in our local area. Inappropriate development can destroy our precious remaining habitats, while well-designed developments can help secure nature’s recovery through the restoration and creation of well-connected wild places.
Planning could also help improve people’s access and connection to nature. Evidence shows that almost half the population say they are spending more time outside than before the pandemic – but access to nature is not equal, exacerbating health inequalities.
With nature now declining at a speed never previously seen, it is clear the current planning system has flaws and needs updating to create better homes and communities for people and wildlife. It is great news for the Wildlife Trust that the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, has pressed “pause” on the planning reforms announced last year, acknowledging that the proposals would not help the nature and climate crisis.
Across the country, The Wildlife Trusts are still fighting against developments that put important wild areas at risk. For example, here in Hampshire, the Trust is currently fighting proposals in Portsmouth City Council’s Draft Local Plan which would build 3,500 houses on top of fifty football pitches worth of legally protected intertidal habitats at Tipner West. The area has some of the highest legal safeguards that can be awarded in recognition of its importance to thousands of migratory birds, such as dark-bellied brent geese and dunlin, as well as many fish and invertebrates. Not only would this development be disastrous for the wildlife and people of Portsmouth, but could set a precedent that would allow housing targets to trump nature anywhere.
We need a new approach.
The Wildlife Trust is calling for a Planning Bill that prioritises people and wildlife – one that restores nature and draws clear red lines for developers, while also tackling the climate crisis, and supporting people’s health and wellbeing.
The planning system can play a crucial role in nature’s recovery – mapping out where nature still survives, and where it needs more space to recover. By avoiding damage to these critical places, we can make sure that as we build, we can also leave nature in a better state than we found it.
You can respond to the Portsmouth City Council Local Plan consultation, demanding they to stop the destructive plans for Tipner: wtru.st/portsmouth-local-plan.
Let your garden go wild for wildlife this autumn – Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Rustle. Crunch. Swoosh. The familiar sounds of crisp, freshly fallen leaves underfoot are a sure sign autumn has arrived. But as the nights gradually draw in and the temperatures start to dip, this marks a crucial season for wildlife as preparations are put in place to survive winter.
As the bounties of summer food sources start to dwindle, gardens become an increasingly important haven for wildlife in the ‘harvest season’. At this time of year, many garden visitors – be it birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles or invertebrates – are busying themselves securing enough food and shelter to see them through the harsh winter months.
You can play your part in helping countless species this autumn, and the best part? It requires minimal effort.
That golden scattering of leaf litter may look untidy on the lawn but, rather than removing, simply sweeping the leaves into a neat pile in a wind-sheltered corner of the garden can provide a vital habitat for frogs and many overwintering invertebrates. In turn, a garden boasting a healthy population of insects equals more foodstuff for ground feeding birds like robins, blackbirds and song thrushes as well as small mammals such as hedgehogs, foxes and badgers. And not only do decaying leaves provide essential refugia for insects, frogs and hibernating hedgehogs, it also makes excellent mulch for flowerbeds.
Avoiding the temptation to prune hedgerows and shrubs excessively also allows birds more time to eat the remaining berries whilst providing valuable sanctum. This is especially true for garden ivy as this evergreen perennial offers both a perfect shelter and winter berries.
For our feathered garden guests specifically, another olive branch that gardeners can extend in autumn is to put up nest boxes. Though these boxes won’t be used for nesting until the breeding season in spring, they can provide birds with a warm and safe space to escape foul weather and boost their chances of survival.
Finally, as many gardens witness an influx of birds during autumn as the search for food intensifies among common species and winter migrants, this makes it the perfect time to clean your feeder, ensuring it is free from disease.
So, remember to spare nature a thought and enjoy turning your garden into a wildlife haven this autumn.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Beechcroft House, Vicarage Lane, Curdridge, Hampshire, SO32 2DP