With almost 90% of people living in towns and cities that are feeling the impact of the decline of the high street and endless pressure to build yet more homes and with wild species in decline, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes it is time to take a stand to ensure that wildlife habitats in urban areas are protected and restored and that people have a right to access nature on their doorstep.
We have recently published a new vision for the county’s urban areas called Transforming our towns and city for people and nature. The vision highlights the inequality of access to nature between communities, the plight of species under threat and people’s desire for change. It then calls on government, planners and politicians to take a nature first approach to planning and investment. We very much hope that the vision will also act as a rallying call to communities to take action in response to the nature and climate crises.
Our shared experience over the past two years has highlighted, like never before, that people must have access wildlife rich greenspaces on their doorstep. Sadly, access to nature isn’t equal and many people living in urban areas have little opportunity to experience and benefit from nature close to home. Not everyone has a an area such as Idle Valley Nature Reserve on their doorstep or can afford to travel to access nature. In many areas the endless pressure to build yet more homes is making matters worse, with remaining greenspaces and wild habitats disappearing and developers doing little to restore nature.
The fact that many areas are looking to recover from the impacts of covid and long term decline of the high street, combined with growing appreciation that access to nature underpins our health and wellbeing should serve as a catalyst to finding creative ways to restore nature to our towns and cities. This could reverse decades of wildlife decline and secure a greener recovery for our urban landscapes.
We feel it’s time to take a stand. Wildlife, including many species once common in urban areas such as hedgehogs and house sparrows are in decline and without a change of approach, people living in our towns and cities are likely to have less and less access to nature in the future. We want to see our towns and our city transformed from grey to green and we can all play a part. The environment must be at the heart of policy and by replacing barren greenspaces with a network of habitat to support nature’s recovery we can create urban oases. This would bring people together and put nature into recovery at a time when natural greenspace has never been more valued or needed.
By harnessing nature-based solutions to link fragmented landscapes it is possible to reimagine towns from Retford & Worksop to Newark, Mansfield, Beeston and Bingham, as well as the City of Nottingham, with more spaces to connect with nature – enabling wildlife and people to thrive.
Current legislation can make it difficult to prevent development on the basis that wildlife habitats will be damaged or species disturbed and the complex planning system can be difficult to access for people wanting to have their say. That’s why we are currently working alongside Wildlife Trusts from across the county and other environmental organisations to secure improvements to planning legislation to protect and restore nature and secure a legal right to local access to nature in the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
The vision document sets out a number of aspirations for similar changes locally including:
- a commitment from councils to protect remaining wildlife habitats and ensure that new areas are set aside for nature
- the adoption of minimum standards for people’s access to natural greenspaces
- local authorities having a much greater say on what is build, not just where building takes place.
We also believe that real momentum is growing within communities’ keen to take action for nature and to reduce the impacts of climate change. This vision sets out how we intend to encourage individuals and groups to act.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is rooted in the community and stands shoulder to shoulder with local campaigners fighting to protect nature on their patch. We can sense a real appetite for change and we’re committed to providing advice, support and encouragement to individuals, schools and other groups keen to take action for nature and climate in their own lives or within their community.
The vision document highlights the efforts of groups such as WildNG in Nottingham, which is helping the City Council pilot ways to reduce the use of chemical weed killers on local streets; Hedgepigs in Beeston which is creating highways for hedgehogs by connecting local gardens and the ‘Stop the Chop’ campaign that saved a group of mature trees near Newark Library from being felled. We’ve also worked alongside local campaigners in Mansfield to prevent a large housing development on the edge of a protected nature reserve.
Communities the length and breadth of the county are no longer prepared to simply sit back and watch remaining wild areas and greenspaces disappear. They expect to see leadership from decision makers to tackle the nature and climate crisis and want their voices to be heard. They are also increasingly willing to take action themselves and we’re committed to helping support and encourage them as part of a people powered nature recovery.
Alongside publishing the vision, the Trust has collated a range of ideas, resources and links on its website to encourage action for nature the Wildlife Trust on its website. It is also asking people to map actions they have already taken for nature across the county.
To read the new vision and to map your actions visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org