Lancashire wildlife group calls for 'wildbelts' to protect nature amid planning fears

A group of Lancashire nature campaigners is calling on the Government to revise planning laws amid fears new proposals could endanger the county’s wildlife.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 3:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 4:58 pm

According to the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, reforms in the Government’s White Paper, Planning for the Future, threaten nature and do little to create better homes.

The Lancashire group is supporting the national Wildlife Trusts in 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 propose a new protection mechanism called Wildbelt.

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The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is calling for the Government to include nature ‘wildbelts’ in new planning reforms. Picture: Alan Wright

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We’re in a climate and ecological crisis and we cannot afford to lose any more wildlife. We must keep the environmental protections that we have – but even that is not enough.

Protections must be strengthened, and the Government needs to take a big step towards helping nature to recover everywhere. The new planning reforms currently propose an algorithm-based system that’s dependent on non-existent data. That’s a system that will fail nature and lead to more loss.

“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.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ five principles are:

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

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

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

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

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

Lancashire Wildlife Trust campaigns manager Alan Wright said: “We want a Wildbelt that is protected from development. We want modern answers to how development should progress, not 19th Century answers involving building for the short-term and then leaving society to deal with the consequences.

“It’s easy to demand more house-building and blame newts for getting in the way of progress, but the reason half a million houses haven’t been built, despite having planning permission, is down to the structure of the UK’s housing market, not a great crested newt found in a nearby pond.

“And it certainly cannot be business as usual: as we are learning to our cost,”

To find out more go to https://www.lancswt.org.uk/wilder-future-campaign/government-planning-reforms. The deadline is October 29.