Last time good news about pesticides, this time bad news about Local Wildlife Sites (LWS). Wherever you live in Birmingham and the Black Country you will not be far away from a LWS. We have nearly 600 of these, they may be remnants of ancient woodlands, wetlands, old farmland, or so-called brownfield land which was once built upon. Collectively they bring nature to our doorsteps, providing havens for nature amongst the roads, houses and factories.
Currently protected by the planning policies of local authorities, these places are under threat from prospective changes to national planning rules. The Government is consulting on something called the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in order to streamline the decision-making process. Local Wildlife Sites are not mentioned in the proposals and, as the NPPF has to be used by local planners when making decisions about new developments, all protection for LWS may be lost. This is a perfect example of the tension in the planning system between the need for new houses and other development and the need to protect the wider good. One person’s red tape is another’s essential protection.
Our LWS have been hard won, and they should be safeguarded in any changes to the rules. In the 1980s the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country was the first such body to survey a major conurbation. Many designations of LWS date from those days. The survey results, updated from time to time, have been an essential part of the planning system here ever since. Our local authorities understand the connection between quality of the environment and quality of life.
Now the Wildlife Trust is asking that the sites retain their protection from development. They point out that although they are refuges for wildlife they are hugely important for people as well. They say that ‘ People need nature to feel happier and healthier and this is a right that everyone should have .’
Although the formal consultation period is now closed you can still help. In particular you can contact your local councillors and MP. Some councillors may not be aware of the LWS in their ward, especially in Birmingham following the recent boundary changes. MPs should have the chance to debate the final proposals, and the more people contact them the more important the issue becomes.
There is much more about this on the Wildlife Trust’s website: http://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk