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12/10/2020

Nature is ‘vital’ to the economy

Words: Laura Edgar
Birds / iStock-1055645314

Natural England has pledged that in its role as an adviser to the planning system it will ensure that the value nature provides is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but recognised as being ‘vital’ to economic and social needs.

Setting out its “vision” for the next five years, Natural England said a “truly green” recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must allow nature to thrive in places where people live, work and play. Green space must be provided for health and wellbeing and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In Building Partnerships for Nature's Recovery, Natural England, the government’s adviser on the natural environment also vows to:

  • Change its planning advice so that nature is considered at the earliest design phase of developments, providing high environmental quality development and greater clarity and certainty for developers.
  • Bring nature to everyone’s doorstep, build resilience to climate change and create better places to live, work and play by embedding green infrastructure standards into all development planning.
  • Ensure that all developments provide measurably more biodiversity than before they were built by taking a biodiversity net gain approach to all its advice, creating a framework for this important national initiative.
  • Work creatively and constructively in partnership to prevent breaches of environmental limits (for example of water or air pollution) at the country’s most important protected habitats, while enabling sustainable development.
  • Change its approach to wildlife licensing, making it more streamlined for businesses while safeguarding the most vulnerable species and increasing conservation benefits at a strategic level.
  • Help people and businesses to deal with complexity by ensuring that its advice brings together different policy objectives such as carbon, floods, trees, biodiversity and placemaking.
  • Help to level up the social inequality underlined by coronavirus by using green space and nature to build back greener.

The blueprint also seeks to guarantee that all children, wherever they live, can enjoy the benefits of a natural environment that is thriving. Natural England wants nature to be more resilient and more accessible by 2025.

It has undertaken a number of surveys recently. These have shown that about a third of parents wish their children could spend more time outside in nature to support their physical and mental health. In addition, there is a 20 percentage point difference in the time children from the most affluent areas spend outside every week compared with those from more deprived areas.

Marian Spain, chief executive at Natural England, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has made us all more aware of how essential access to a thriving natural environment is for our health and wellbeing. But it has also revealed shocking inequalities in who in our society can access nature.

“As we emerge from the pandemic Natural England is committed to taking action now which will revive our natural world and make it part of our daily lives. Restoring nature is a ‘win-win-win’: more wildlife, solutions to climate change and a healthier and more prosperous society.

“Imagine a world where woodlands, peat bogs and coastal marshes soak up carbon from the atmosphere? Where everybody can visit national parks that are rich in nature and beauty? Where beavers help manage our rivers, reducing flooding and tackling pollution? And where every child can play in green space near their home? That’s the world we are working to create and why it’s so important that we build partnerships for action to create positive and lasting change for our natural environment.”

Building Partnerships for Nature's Recovery can be found here on the UK Government website.

Image credit | iStock

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