Our English wildlife is disappearing. We may read books to our children with stories about hedgehogs, dormice, ladybirds, butterflies and many others favourites, but in real life these are vanishing from our country. We are losing our incredible wildlife at an alarming rate. Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of species in the UK declined. You can read about this is the State of Nature Report 2019 which has a useful infographic.
Here you will see that urbanisation is one of the important causes of wildlife loss. Also explained is that between 2006 and 2018, 1,600 miles of road were constructed in Great Britain. Now imagine all the development across the countryside associated with those roads and you can begin to understand the extent of the problem.
Planning Resource (October 2021 news item) headlines that an area equivalent to 20 per cent of the amount of land developed for housing in England each year - some 1,300 hectares - is likely to be needed for osite habitat creation under the impending new biodiversity net gain requirement, according to an analysis by planning consultancy Savills. The biodiversity net gain requirement is due to be introduced in the Environment Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, and means that developers much commission a baseline survey to establish the number of biodiversity 'units' on the undeveloped site, and then show how they will replace what is being lost, with an extra ten per cent to provide the 'net gain'.
It is possible to put forward 'off-site' compensation.
Law - the European Habitats Directive
There is still great concern that the present government will get rid of the Habitats Regulations which transposed the European Habitats Directive into British law.Yet for campaigners to preserve the diverse ecology of the English countryside, the Habitats Directive is essential. By insisting that European law be strictly applied in order to protect endangered bats from Wiltshire Council’s massive housing estate and section of A350 east of Trowbridge (see the White Horse Alliance statement to strategic planning committee 2018) we reduced the risk of likely extinction predicted by our expert ecological adviser, Professor John Altringham - see his report.
All independent conservation groups have condemned the planned removal of environmental safeguards in pursuit of ‘growth, growth, growth.’ The Wildlife Trusts is part of what former PM Truss dismissed as ‘the anti-growth coalition’. This was its protest.
This coalition includes not only established conservation groups such as the RSPB and CPRE but also farmers worried about threats to the environmental land management scheme (ELMS) and Tory MPs representing rural areas concerned about loss of protected wildlife and landscapes.
But this gathering of forces in defense of the natural world cannot match those massing in the cause of cars and roads. Their champions were on manoeuvres in the autumn of 2022. In Kwasi Kwarteng’s doomed mini-budget, 87 out of 117 (74%) transport infrastructure projects listed in his ‘growth plan 2022’ related to road upgrades.
New roads bringing housing estates and other development with them is hard to square with government policies for 'biodiversity gain'.