My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
It is a week since the Chancellor made his autumn economic statement. Since then I have been delighted by the response from our supporters. Hundreds of you have told us that you have written to your MP to make the case that wildlife and the natural environment don’t need to be sacrificed for growth - that they can be at the heart of our economic recovery.
And it seems others share our view. This article appeared from Mary Riddell in today’s Telegraph.
This is what our elected representatives (and the Chancellor) need to hear. So, if you have not yet done so, please do write to your MP.
And another thing they might like to know is that every day of every year, the RSPB is offering advice to developers about how to conform with the planning system and wildlife legislation. At the last count, we were engaging with something like 741 cases. These include applications for new houses, new windfarms, new airport capacity or new ports. A selection of these are featured here.
For example, over the past five years, we have engaged with about 1500 windfarm proposals often affecting internationally protected sites or species. We sustained objections to just 83 (c6%). Smart developers engage with us early. They want to understand the likely impacts of their proposal and, if they want their proposal to proceed without objection, then adapt their plans accordingly.
Take the London Array windfarm - in 2003 the developer consortium first brought forward a proposal for the largest offshore windfarm in the world in the outer Thames Estuary, to consist of up to 341 turbines with a potential 1-gigawatt capacity (equivalent to a nuclear power station). During baseline environmental surveys, the site and wider area was found to contain a previously unknown internationally important population of red-throated divers, a protected species that preys on small fish on shallow submerged sandbanks. The higher densities of feeding red-throated divers in the estuary were associated with the northern area of the application site, whilst the generally more exposed southern end held lower densities.
Divers are very prone to disturbance by boats and man-made objects, and a windfarm had the potential to displace very large numbers of divers from their feeding habitats. The developers had worked closely with the RSPB and other nature conservation stakeholders throughout the formulation and implementation of their environmental impact studies. The site was a candidate for listing as a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated under the EU Birds Directive, and, from the outset, the developers chose to treat the area as though it had been designated. Constructive discussion led to the developers amending the footprint of the windfarm to avoid the highest concentrations of divers. And after a few months of negotiation, a solution was agreed, in which the installation of 175 turbines would proceed, which would be economic for the developers, but by avoiding the northern part of the site, would not adversely impact the divers. Phase 1 of the wind farm is due to be completed at the end of 2012. That is great news for renewable energy and great news for wildlife.
The RSPB will, of course, oppose development which we think needlessly destroys our finest wildlife sites and species, but we are also happy to help support sustainable development. That is why we are offer any developer across the UK advice about wildlife legislation, including the Habitats Regulations which are now subject to review in England. The Secretary of State has suggested that the regulations work in 96% of cases. The question which the review will need to ask is for the remaining 4% of cases is it the developer that is at fault or the regulations?
If you are a developer, what problem do you hope the review will address? Have you ever thought about asking the RSPB for advice? And, don't you agree that it's worth taking the effort to adapt development applications to save species such as the red-throated diver?
It would be great to hear your views.
George, we are not going anywhere. We are with you all the way. Thanks for your message. The FONKM is a powerful force and I would not advise anyone to take you on!
We are thankful to the RSPB and its members, who helped deliver 150,000 letters of objection to Downing Street, against the proposal for an Airport at Cliffe. And are comforted that the Society is again at the forefront of the battle with government and developers for a similar proposal just a few miles down stream in the Thames estuary. We are proud to be able to say 10 years on that we are still "Conservation and Communities United"
Friends of the North Kent Marshes.
These are your words, Peter!
On global emissions, of course, I agree with you. Alas the International Energy Agency reports suggest that global emissions increased 6% last year.
hi. I saw the RSPB letter, it was a good one. This government is awful in every aspect and clearly the likes of John Gummer should be up in arms; they are combining terrible reforms to the NHS with the most blinkered thinking on the environment. Who wiil ever believe a Liberal on anything? The straight jacket of the Coalition is plainly suffocating all independance.
By 2020 emissions must be falling globally; the recession is an opportunity here.
There is a solution; does the RSPB support the broad thrust of the Compass Initiative? DO the other "green" signatories who plainly set out the regressive nature of Osbourne (a climate sceptic's approach?) ? then put this to the Liberal Party and see how many MP's will stand on their conscience?