If we could see like a swift, we’d see how planning and farming policies affect our landscape.
In an unprecedented move, the government is asking the public what they think about the future of national farming policy and planning policy at the same time. The consultations are open until Thursday 10 May (planning) and Tuesday 8th May (farming).
The rules that guide farming and planning both have a huge impact on our wildlife. Intensive farming and urban development have contributed massively to the decline of our wildlife in the past 100 years - but we can turn this around. You have an opportunity to influence the future of nature in England by responding to both consultations. There are specific risks, for example Local Wildlife Sites are now not mentioned at all in the draft Planning Policy guidance
What you can do to help
We need all supporters of wildlife like yourself to respond to both the planning and farming consultations, and ask the government to prioritise the needs of future generations and our natural world.
1. Respond to the Government consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework
You can get involved in two ways. Either you can complete the Government's online survey here, or you can send an email to . You don’t have to answer all of the questions – you can pick the issues that matter most to you, and we’ve given you some guidance below on what we think are the most important risks to wildlife.
Q2 – Local Wildlife Sites need to be included in the list of things which provide a specific reason for restricting development. They're one of the last refuges for wildlife and are hugely important for people and wildlife and need protection under the planning system.
Q6 – This consultation is lacking important strategic policies on conservation and that the enhancement of the natural environment needs to be ‘spatially planned’
Q20 – There isn't any reference to the importance of local access to nature in promoting healthy communities; people need nature to feel happier and healthier and this is a right that everyone should have
• The government has included a requirement for policies and decisions to provide net gain for biodiversity – more wildlife after the development than before. Stronger wording would require Local Authorities to map a Nature Recovery Network
• There is a recommendation that existing sites designated for biodiversity, wildlife corridors and stepping stones should be mapped - this is a great opportunity!
• Local Wildlife Sites need to be specifically included in the sites that should be identified and mapped as components of local wildlife-rich habitats
• It is suggested that only sites for habitat restoration or creation that are identified by local partnerships should be added to this map - this can be challenged. This is because local partnerships may not exist in all areas, not have sufficient resources to do this work, which should be carried out by the local authority.
2. Respond to the Government consultation on the future of national farming policy
You can get involved in two ways. Either you can complete the Government's online survey here, or you can send an email to .
You don't have to answer all of the questions – you can pick the issues that matter most to you, and we’ve given you some guidance below on what we think are the most important risks to wildlife.
- Reward farmers and land managers for the benefits they provide for society, like clean water, healthy soils and a wildlife-rich countryside
- Replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a system that supports public benefits and environmental outcomes for society
- Make it easier for farmers to help nature through changing the culture of regulation, including through better use of technology to identify where farmers and land managers are following the rules (which would free up more time for delivery)
3) Tell your friends and family and encourage them to get involved and respond too
4) Follow the conversation on Twitter by following #ActSwiftly
This is a rare chance to ask for a much more visionary approach to the environment – for each of us to call for planning rules and farm support and regulation to point in the same direction, towards the recovery of our nature and wildlife. This is possible but to do this we need your help
Seeing our landscape with a swifts-eye view
Swifts spend almost all of their time in the sky swooping over fields and rooftops. With their bird’s eye view, they can see how agriculture overlaps with our buildings and roads. They can see how our towns are growing. They can see when hedgerows go and fields get bigger and when beautiful woods or meadows are lost. They can see both the catastrophic changes to the landscapes we love and the improvements we can sometimes bring about, in a way that we just can’t.
If we could see like a swift, we’d see how our housing, hedges, field margins, gardens, riverbanks and road verges could be wilder and more joined-up, to give wildlife the space it needs to thrive and move around.
We all need nature. Swifts need healthy farmland full of insects to eat and houses where they can make their nests and raise their young between bricks and under our roofs. People need nature around them in the places where we live and work to improve their quality of life. Farmers need healthy soils and habitats to grow food, avoid polluting rivers and ensure pollinators like bees have the habitat they require.
If you agree please help at this critical time. The deadlines are 10th May for the planning consultation and 8th May for the farming consultation. It’s time to act swiftly!
Pictures: Top picture of a Swift: John Bridges, second Swift: Stefan Johansson and bird'd eye view pic: Stock image