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Sir David Attenborough calls for new planning laws to protect nature

The i logo The i 06/10/2019

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Sir David Attenborough is calling for tough new planning laws to protect UK wildlife as he lamented that the country is "one of the most  nature-depleted places on the planet".

Just days after a major report found two fifths of the UK's plant and animal species are in decline, the wildlife presenter is spearheading a new campaign to boost nature.

He wants to create a joined-up network of habitats that would give wildlife an opportunity to roam far more widely than they do at the moment.

This would allow numerous species that are often penned into small, isolated, areas with relatively little food and shelter to prosper by moving to more suitable habitats through a network of "wildlife corridors" or nature paths, linking one suitable territory to another.

David Attenborough smiling for the camera © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The paths would also help animals to escape the increasing bouts of extreme weather associated with climate change and to gradually migrate to new areas of the country as the planet warms.

"Nature urgently needs our help to recover - and it can be done," said Sir David.

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"By joining wild places and creating more across the UK we would improve our lives and help nature to flourish - because everything works better when it's connected," he added.

Sir David is president emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, a group of 46 local charities from around the country. They are calling for powerful new laws to ensure that wildlife is given priority in town planning and land management decisions and for their proposed 'nature recovery network' to be included in the Government's proposed Environment Bill.

"We now live in one of the most nature depleted places on the planet...Now is the time to tell our politicians that we need a Nature Recovery Network set in law," Sir David said.

Nature is good for our health

Den built in the forest, Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, UK. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images) Den built in the forest, Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, UK. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images) Nikki Williams, director of campaigns and policy at the Wildlife Trusts, added: "People  also benefit from being closer to nature. It's good for our mental health and wellbeing and helps prevent obesity," she says.

A spokesman for the Environment Department said:  “Nature matters, and we are committed to being world-leaders in protecting and restoring the environment for future generations."

“As part of our forthcoming flagship Environment Bill, we will legislate for Local Nature Recovery Strategies to support the delivery of the Nature Recovery Network,” he added.

These strategies will include tools to support better spatial planning for nature recovery, he said.

Gallery: David Attenborough: A life in pictures (Photos)

The government has not yet published the detail of the network but, based on the proposals made its 150 page 25 Year Environment Plan last year, Ms Williams is concerned that they won't go nearly far enough in legislating for the creation of wildlife networks that cover the entire country and are an integral part of the planning process.

Some wildlife trusts have already carried out smaller-scale projects to link areas of fragmented nature.

Here are some examples:-Since 1981, wildlife trusts have been working with farmers to create a stronghold for wading birds such as curlews by buying and restoring floodplain meadows in the upper reaches of the River Ray. This rises in the village of Quainton Buckinghamshire, close to Finemere Wood nature reserve and flows west alongside some of the last remaining traditional floodplan meadows in England, to join the River Cherwell at Islip, north of Oxford.

Helping the Dartford warbler

-A Wildlife Trust project, known as the West Berkshire Living Landscape scheme, covers 27 square kilometres, including the river valleys of the Enborne and the Kennet which are separated by the higher gravel plateau and heathland mosaic of Greenham and Crookham Commons. It contains at least 97 threatened or endangered species such as the Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark. The project has enhanced their prospects by expanded and enhancing the locality since 2008 by increasing the areas of heathland and improving the nature links between fragmented pockets of wildlife.

Helping amphibians

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire UK. (Photo by: Photofusion/Ian Francis/UIG via Getty Images) Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire UK. (Photo by: Photofusion/Ian Francis/UIG via Getty Images) -The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust has, in the last few years, turned the landscape of the Chimney Meadows farm, near the Oxfordshire town of Abington, from intensively-managed arable land to wildflower meadows surrounded by wildlife-rich hedgerows, with new scrapes (shallow basins) and ponds for amphibians and wading birds. To help manage the meadows a herd of Dexter cattle and flock of Hebridean sheep have been added.

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