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Green infrastructure

Agriculture around Lough Foyle, set-aside at Black Brae

Image: Andy Hay

To meet the new 2020 target for biodiversity, and ensure species’ resilience and adaptation to climate change, we need to do more conservation - now.

Conservation at a landscape scale, in particular the restoration or creation of priority habitats, offers a way to meet that challenge. This is the cornerstone of our Futurescapes programme.

Current planning policies across the UK - in particular PPS9 in England, National Planning Framework 2 in Scotland, TAN5 in Wales and PPS2 in Northern Ireland - support and in some cases actively encourage provision for habitat restoration and creation.

Mapping opportunities

We urge planning authorities to identify and map habitat restoration and creation opportunities and to incorporate these into strategic and local development plans. In the same way that Minerals Development Plans safeguard mineral deposits, habitat opportunities should influence land-use decisions too.

A variety of methodologies exists. We have tried various mapping methods at different spatial scales. Our Making space for wildlife leaflet summarises the findings of the Habitat Re-creation Opportunity Mapping report.

The Heathland Extent and Potential project experimented with mapping based on aerial photographs, whereas more pro-active initiatives include web-based tools such as the Nature After Minerals programme and Wetland Vision, undertaken in partnership with other organisations.

Most recently, we helped to develop the Clocaenog Statement of Environmental Masterplanning Principles (SEMP) for Wales. This identified broad Ecological Character Zones and provided appropriate habitat management schedules for wind farm developers in the Clocaenog Strategic Search Area, in keeping with TAN 8 requirements. You can download the document from this page.

Safeguarding sites

Mapping is essential because the physical requirements of some habitats, such as soil type and hydrology, are very site specific. Restoring or creating these habitats is therefore limited to places where there is the necessary range of physical conditions. Without recognition or protection within spatial plans, these places may be lost forever to built development or other incompatible land-uses.

There is tension between planning policies that promote the social and economic opportunities provided by multi-functional green infrastructure and the needs of species and habitats. Spatial plans should accommodate the natural environment, too. Read more about the barriers to delivering landscape-scale conservation through spatial planning in a recent survey of UK planners - see the downloads section on this page.

In 2010, we re-launched our Futurescapes programme. There are 40 landscape-scale Futurescapes initiatives happening around the UK with another 40 in preparation. We are working with environmental groups, local communities, the private sector and relevant government authorities to develop a shared vision of a countryside fit for people and wildlife, now and in the future. We would like to hear from you if want to be a part of it.