Serious concerns over drilling proposal
Shropshire Wildlife Trust has deep concerns about potential drilling for methane at Dudleston, near Ellesmere.
The Meres and Mosses area of north Shropshire is a highly sensitive environment, recently recognised by the Government for its unique nature when it was designated a Nature Improvement Area, one of the first 12 in the UK. Parts of the area have been awarded international protection as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar designations for their outstanding wildlife wetlands.
The risks involved in coalbed methane extraction have serious implications for water supplies: not only does the process involve pumping vast amounts of water through the ground, there is also the clear possibility of contamination. Water supplies in north Shropshire are already stressed as a result of diffuse pollution from agriculture and high demand for domestic and industrial use. Ground water is pumped out at times of drought to maintain levels in the Severn and its tributaries and needs to be clean and plentiful, for the health of both people and nature.
At a time when EU directives are driving improvements in both drinking water quality and ecological standards of our rivers, the problems of coal bed methane extraction could make the situation very much worse. The middle Severn catchment is currently failing to meet the required standards.
Added to this, is the crucial argument of climate change. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only last week urged the need to cut planet-warming carbon emissions. Currently fossil fuels provide more than 80% of all energy and this dependence needs to be drastically reduced. Minimising energy waste and investment in renewables is essential.
15th April 2014
Save our disappearing grasslands
Under threat from development, changes in land-use and farming practices, neglect and mismanagement, new evidence from Wildlife Trusts across the country tells a story of vanishing grasslands and vanishing wildlife.
Staff at Shropshire Wildlife Trust have noticed the ploughing of permanent grassland taking place in Shropshire over the last two years. Around the Upper Clun for instance at least 80 hectares of semi-natural grassland has already been destroyed or is under threat from ploughing. However grasslands are also declining in wildlife value. Twenty five per cent of semi-natural grasslands surveyed last year had declined in condition.
Nationally, 5632 people have already signed the Wildlife Trust’s e-petition to persuade government to take the protection of grasslands seriously.
In addition to being vital for bees and pollinators, grasslands are also essential for: wild grasses and flowers, butterflies and barn owls, skylarks and slow worms, for protecting precious soils, protecting rivers from pollutants and for storing water and carbon, for preserving ancient meadows and pastures - living museums of social history and for supporting sustainable farming systems
Our wildlife-rich grasslands are fading away – and with them the precious wildlife and wild plants of our countryside. The Wildlife Trusts have been collecting information on the state of valuable grassland sites in England such as ancient meadows, pastures and road verges. The information gathered so far has provided a snapshot of the situation on the ground. The data is startling. For example:
• Nottinghamshire: out of 392 Local Wildlife Sites containing neutral grassland 99 (25%) have been de- selected since 2005.
• Worcestershire: in this county renowned for its classic traditional lowland hay meadows, it is estimated that 48 sites (24%), comprising around 240 hectares, out of a total of 200 grassland Local Wildlife Sites have been lost, damaged or reduced to sub-optimal condition since 2005.
• Cumbria: surveys of upland hay meadow Local Wildlife Sites between 2008-2011 led to the de-selection of 35 (27%) out of a total of 128 sites. At 15 of the sites the traditional hay meadows previously present had completely disappeared. In the Lake District National Park surveys of 223.47 hectares of hay meadow wildlife sites between the late 1970s and early 2000s led to a staggering 183.26 hectares (82%) being de-selected as Local Wildlife Sites.
25th March 2014
Wildlife Trusts urge government to rethink bTB control with new campaign
The Wildlife Trusts today ask David Cameron - via an e-action petition - to drop the Government’s failed badger cull policy and develop an alternative strategy for tackling bovine tuberculosis.
We are today launching an e-action to ensure the Prime Minister feels the weight of serious public concern that any plans for continued and extended culling will make matters worse
Despite strong public opposition, a string of Government failures and MP recognition that an alternative strategy to deal with bovine TB is needed, plans to continue - and extend - badger culling - are expected this week.
The Wildlife Trusts today launch an appeal aimed at the Prime Minister to bolster support for alternatives.
According to yesterday’s edition of The Sunday Times, the Government’s badger culls are to restart this summer, with a third zone in Dorset added to the existing areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“We are today launching an e-action to ensure the Prime Minister feels the weight of serious public concern that any plans for continued and extended culling will make matters worse.The Government must take a long hard look at its policy and drop the failed culling approach to effectively tackle this disease.The justification to continue, and further extend, culling in other counties will be totally unacceptable.
“If the news reported yesterday is confirmed later this week, it will reinforce serious unease that lessons are not being learned; that the basic facts and strong public opinion are falling on deaf ears with what can only be dire consequences.We continue to push for badger culling to be dropped from the Government’s bTB strategy.It must prioritise badger vaccination, alongside a comprehensive package of cattle measures: better biosecurity, stricter movement controls, improved TB testing and development of a cattle vaccine.
According to The Sunday Times, an announcement by the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), is expected this Thursday (27 March) along with the publication of the Independent Expert Panel report.The newspaper also reported Defra is “planning another three years of culling in Gloucester and Somerset, for which licences have already been issued, and four years of culls in Dorset. Proposed culls in Cornwall and Devon are understood to have been dropped for now.”
Paul Wilkinson, added:
“Earlier this month, MPs overwhelmingly backed a motion calling on the Government to drop culling.They listened to the views of the public, took into account the facts and backed alternatives. It is long overdue for the Government to do the same.”
17th March 2014
Have your say on Shropshire’s future housing plan
Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are calling on people throughout the county to get involved in the planning process. More than 50,000 new houses are set to be built by the mid 2020s across the county and it is essential that people make their views known now, if they wish to influence which areas are built on.
A public meeting arranged by the Trust and CPRE is to be held at the Lord Hill Hotel, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury on Thursday 3rd April, to inform and encourage people on how to get engaged in the consultations. Expert advice will be offered from three speakers. Niall Blackie, senior partner at Shrewsbury solicitors’ firm FBC Manby Bowdler, will discuss the National Planning Policy Framework, within which local councils have to operate. David Parker, planning consultant (formerly of Oswestry Borough Council), will interpret the planning changes at a local level and Colin Preston, director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, will advise on how people can work together to get the best deal for Shropshire.
Up to 30,000 houses are set to be built in Telford and a further 25,000 in the rest of Shropshire. Building will occur mainly in the market towns, with Shrewsbury likely to increase by 10 – 20% in size within a decade. “This is development on an unprecedented scale,” said Colin Preston. “We have a great challenge on our hands to make sure these houses go in the right place and that damage to our fragile environment and its wildlife is minimised.”
Shropshire Council is due to publish a draft version of the SAMDev (Site Allocations and Management of Development) plan shortly. This will set out proposals for the use of land and policies to guide future development in Shropshire up to 2026. It covers the whole of the administrative area of Shropshire Council. Telford & Wrekin’s housing development plan, Shaping Places, will also be announced in the near future.
14th March 2014
Are we fit to frack?
Poorly regulated fracking risks harming threatened species and polluting our waterways, according to a report produced by the UK’s leading wildlife and countryside groups.
The report,Are We Fit to Frack?, was launched today by the Angling Trust, the National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. It is supported by a cross party group of MPs including Zac Goldsmith, Alan Whitehead and Tessa Munt.
The report contains ten recommendations for making fracking safer as the Government continues its push to get companies to apply for licences to explore and drill for shale gas.
The recommendations are based on a full technical evidence report which has been peer reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, one of the UK’s leading ecological research institutes.
The countryside groups are calling for all protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal, and for the shale gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.
The report highlights a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species including pink footed geese, salmon and barbastelle bats. It also raises serious concerns about the impact of drilling and water contamination on some of our most precious natural habitats such as chalk streams. These crystal clear waterways are known to anglers and wildlife-lovers as England’s coral reefs – 85% of the world’s chalk streams are found here.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The Prime Minister has been a great advocate for the shale gas industry. He has said we have the strongest environmental controls in this country and nothing will go ahead if there are environmental dangers.
“Our report puts a spotlight on these risks and reinforces the growing concern about the impact fracking could have on our countryside and wildlife. We argue that more needs to be done to ensure fracking rules are fit for purpose.”
Simon Pryor, National Trust Natural Environment Director, said: “The debate on fracking needs to be evidence based. The evidence from this detailed research clearly reveals that the regulation of shale gas needs to be improved if it’s to offer adequate protection for sensitive environments.
“Whilst the Government is keen to see rapid roll out of fracking, there’s a real danger that the regulatory system simply isn’t keeping pace. The Government should rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas and ensure that the regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.”
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Government’s dash for shale gas must not run ahead of our ability to effectively regulate, minimise or eliminate the serious risks fracking poses. This report clearly identifies a range of deficiencies which mean we’re not currently fit to frack without unacceptable risks to wildlife, special places and local communities across the country.”
Martin Spray, Chief Executive of WWT, said: “A single frack can use more water than 1,000 people use in a year and if it goes wrong it could contaminate drinking water and ruin wetland habitats. That’s a big burden on communities and it’s a risk we want managed. Today’s report clearly sets out the safeguards that need to be in place before this relatively new industry can operate in our countryside with a degree of safety.”
Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust said: “A poor fracking operation has the potential to pollute groundwater supplies and to cause damage to fragile ecosystems in our chalk streams and other rivers. That is why we need the strongest possible regulatory framework, funded from the profits of the industry rather than from taxpayers’ pockets.”
Janina Gray, Salmon & Trout Association Head of Science, said: “The water use of the UK shale gas industry could exacerbate pressure on rivers and wetlands, particularly on sensitive water bodies and those already suffering from over-abstraction, such as chalk streams, and this adds yet further pressure on declining fish populations - the Atlantic salmon being a prime example.
“This, coupled with the risk of water pollution – including groundwater contamination – could, if not correctly managed, be significant - possibly irreversible. Action must be taken now to ensure all necessary environmental protection and regulatory frameworks are in place before extraction goes ahead.”
Shropshire Wildlife Trust would be deeply concerned about the potential harm that could be caused by fracking. A large area of north Shropshire - roughly corresponding with the Meres & Mosses - has already been highlighted as having fracking potential. Shaped by enormous glaciers in the Ice Age, the distinctive hummocks and hollows of the area were formed some 12,000 years ago. The land has changed over the centuries; most peat bogs have been ploughed and drained, but relics, such as Fenn’s Whixall and Brown Moss, have survived along with astonishing rarities such as the least water lily, found nowhere else in England.
The outstanding value of the area was recognised when the Government designated it as one of England’s first Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) and the Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership was also awarded a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The demands of fracking would place great pressures on this fragile environment. Water pollution would be likely and construction of the fracking infrastructure would potentially lead to the fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitats. It would also require vast quantities of water, a resource that is already over-extracted for domestic and industrial use.
Download the report
5th March 2014
Dismay as 20 years of wildlife restoration ploughed up
Several incidents of ploughing of permanent grassland in the Clun uplands in south Shropshire have caused great concern to Shropshire Wildlife Trust. This change in management is likely to impact severely on breeding populations of curlew, a bird already in steep decline, while the rare small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and numerous uncommon wildflowers, including marsh orchids and bitter-vetch, are also at risk.
The ending of the Clun Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme, which has run for 20 years, appears to have prompted this development. Over 90% of the area was protected by ESA agreements which all had compulsory hedge management and restoration programmes in place.
Two areas have already been ploughed and a third is soon to follow amounting to 26 hectares of land. A further 54 hectares of permanent grassland is awaiting the same fate within the area.
For 20 years, farmers signed up to the ESA scheme were paid to manage their land in a low-intensity way which allowed grasslands to recover their species-diversity. The results were encouraging: land was slowly recovering from past habitat destruction, wildflowers were reappearing and butterflies and farmland birds returning as the land once more became suitable for these species. Ploughing these fields means destruction of the last 20 years’ good work and calls into question how agricultural regulations can allow this to happen. “Significant amounts of public money were invested in this scheme which brought real benefits for wildlife, the environment and farmers,” said Colin Preston, Director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust. “Now all those valuable gains may be undone.”
The vision of the ESA was that if whole landscapes could be managed sensitively, the environmental benefits would be much greater than if a piecemeal approach was adopted. Shropshire Wildlife Trust entirely supports that approach, but it must be underpinned by a strong, long-term commitment, secure funding and good regulation.
“Grassland is very vulnerable to change,” said Colin. “It is easier to overlook its value for wildlife than other forms of vegetation such as hedgerows and trees.” The Environmental Impact Assessment (which must be sought before permission to plough older grassland is granted) recognises the value of only certain species – not the whole habitat – and this puts the recovering land at risk.
The consequences of ploughing extend far beyond the field itself. Soil is quickly eroded and washed into rivers and streams, causing siltation problems. Water runs off ploughed land much more quickly than from permanent grassland, contributing to the problem of flooding downstream. The UK also runs the risk of incurring multi-million pound fines from the EU if species are lost through poor land management. This is a very real possibility in the Clun area – and yet the organisations entrusted with looking after the environment are not empowered to protect it effectively.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust has developed strong relationships with many farmers in the area over many years and fully appreciates the good work that they are undertaking. Ploughing is unlikely to yield significant financial rewards on marginal farmland such as this and the Trust hopes very much that farmers will take up alternative agri-environmental support schemes, enabling them to continue managing their land in an environmentally sensitive way.
26th February 2014
Revised figures show fall in bTB cases in cattle
In light of revised figures showing bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is declining in UK cattle herds, The Wildlife Trusts repeat their call on the Government to drop badger culling from its bTB strategy.
The Government’s justification for a badger cull in England has been seriously undermined by the release by Defra of revised bTB statistics at the weekend. The statistics show that the overall number of UK cattle herds infected with bTB in 2012-13 fell by 3.4%, rather than increasing by 18% as previously stated.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This is a very embarrassing mix up and raises serious questions about Defra’s competence on this issue and the quality of its record keeping. What is now clear is that the Government’s decision to licence pilot badger culls in England was based on inaccurate data and false claims that the disease is spreading out of control. The new figures show that improved cattle measures have actually been more effective than previously thought.
The greatest reduction in bTB in 2012-13 was seen in Wales, where an independent strategy of strict cattle measures coupled with badger vaccination has achieved a significant 23.6% decrease in the number of infected cattle herds – without culling badgers. In contrast, bTB incidence in England increased by 1.7% during the same period.
Paul Wilkinson continues: “The Welsh example provides clear evidence that the Government’s bTB strategy in England must change if real gains are to be made in tackling this disease.”
The Wildlife Trusts continue to urge the Government to drop badger culling from its bTB strategy and prioritise badger vaccination, alongside a comprehensive package of cattle measures: better biosecurity, stricter movement controls, improved TB testing and development of a cattle vaccine.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust will continue its vaccination programme in north Shropshire, now in its third year. Volunteers will assess badger activity, deploy the cage traps and bait them and then assist with the vaccinations later in the summer. We will also be contacting people in the area to see if there is interest in widening the area covered by the programme.
11th February 2014
Telford dormice given a helping hand
Volunteers for TWWiG (Telford West Wildlife Group) helped to install 50 dormouse tubes at Lightmoor Nature Reserve on Sunday this week to help us discover whether one of our cutest and most elusive small mammals are present at the site . The tubes, donated by SWT, have been installed in suitable habitat of hazel coppice and mixed woodland with the hope that they will be used by any local dormice as summer nests. They are made from correx plastic and offer a cheap alternative to the wooden nest boxes often used. 20 wooden small mammal boxes were also donated by Ricoh to offer Lightmoor's small mammal population a larger choice of nesting locations.
Dormice are another of Britain's declining species and are listed as protected. Shropshire lies very near to the northernmost point of their European distribution and has plenty of good habitat for these cute little mammals, but they are still under-recorded in the county. There are plans to create more dormice monitoring schemes across the county in 2014 to discover whether or not dormice are actually more common here than we thought.
The boxes at Lightmoor will be checked every few months for signs of dormice by the TWWIG volunteers and dormouse licence holders. Unlike other mice (wood mice and yellow-necked mice), dormice prefer to make a nest using fresh leaves as insulation and signs of their presence will be immediately noticeable. There are confirmed dormouse records throughout Ironbridge Gorge; just a stone’s throw from Lightmoor and it is anticipated that because of good connectivity of habitat, there should also be a population in this green oasis.
6th February 2014
Wild future for old war tower
A World War Two RAF control tower will become a home for wildlife as part of a project to preserve the building.
The former control tower which sits at the heart of Butterfly Conservation’s Prees Heath nature reserve near Whitchurch, Shropshire, will be painted in camouflage colours as the building reverts closer to its original 1940s appearance.
As part of the renovations the inside of the control tower will be made accessible for birds, bats and insects looking for roosting and nesting sites.
Prees Heath reserve is the only site in the county for the rare Silver-studded Blue butterfly, but during the war the site was a key RAF airbase.
Originally known as RAF Whitchurch Heath but later changed to RAF Tilstock, the airfield was built by Alfred McAlpine and opened in August 1942. It was a training airfield for pilots and aircrew to learn how to fly bombers rather than an operational facility. The airfield closed after the war and eventually, after a long-running campaign involving the Prees Heath Commoners and many local residents, the western half of the common was purchased by Butterfly Conservation in 2006.
Work on the tower is due to start later this month and is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.
Butterfly Conservation’s Prees Heath Warden, Stephen Lewis said: “This is an exciting development which will see an important historical artefact and a landmark in the local landscape conserved
“The building is an integral part of the restoration of the western half of Prees Heath Common, much of which was previously used to grow crops in the postwar period, being carried out by Butterfly Conservation, and already a great deal has been achieved to transform the site into a sanctuary for wildlife and an important public amenity”.
Renovations will see the roof repaired and coated with asphalt as it was originally. All the windows will be bricked up except one which will have a steel shutter, and a secure door will be installed. The external render will be repaired and replaced where necessary and the building will be painted in camouflage colours as it was during the war.
A series of information panels explaining the wartime, social, geological and natural history of Prees Heath Common will be installed on the outside of the building for the benefit of visitors. The Common was also a large training camp in World War One, and the centenary of the outbreak of the war falls this year. World War Two also saw the Common used as an Internment Camp and a Prisoner of War Camp.
As well as becoming a home for wildlife the building will be made accessible for members of the public on guided walks, school and college educational visits and community group outings.
The work is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme (www.themeresandmosses.co.uk) , a partnership of 10 statutory and charitable organisations working at conservation, raising awareness, engaging communities, improving access and providing opportunities for people to learn skills associated with the landscape, and by Natural England. Funding for the information panels was provided by Northern Marches LEADER.
31st January 2014
Down House Visit
Ellie , Matt, Sara, John and Mike from SWT travelled Down to Down House on the 19th January and were shown around, not a museum of Darwin’s life, but a warm and lively family home. Our tour guides were a bit special. Randal Keynes (Darwin’s great-great grandson) , Irene Palmer (Vice President, Kent Wildlife Trust) and Rowan Blaik (Head gardener at Down House).
The Darwins were not a conventional Victorian family. They hardly used doors. Large windows on the ground floor were always open, so they climbed through these to get into the garden. The Darwin children used to climb out of a first floor window into an old Mulberry Tree and out, away from their strict governess, Miss Thorley.
The Darwins didn’t use the stairs in a conventional way either. The whole family were rather good at surfing down the stairs on a specially made wooden Stair Slide.
It seemed as though the Darwin family only ever came indoors to eat. Even their dinner plates were illustrated with plants and scenes from the natural world.
The overall impression was one of a close, loving family, full of love, laughter and playfulness.
The most powerful room to walk into was the Old Study. In here was the very chair that Charles sat on to write his world famous “Origin of Species”. No one is allowed to sit on this chair, with the arms worn down and frayed. When Sir David Attenborough visited to film a documentary on the great man’s life, even he was given a replica to sit on! The Old Study smelled as you would expect it to; musty and dusty. The shelves were full of natural history and tales of exploration, and the tables were covered in specimens, bones, birds and pots. It would have taken an entire day just to look at all the things in this room.
The garden, again, was unconventional. Charles had flowers in his vegetable garden, holes dug in the lawn and carnivorous plants and orchids in his greenhouse. A watercolour painted during the Darwins’ time at Down depicted a beautiful house, colourful garden and a mess of children’s toys scattered all over the lawn.
The visit was made all the more special by Randal’s stories handed down through five generations. Randal Keynes seems to have inherited the Darwin’s warmth and openness. Walking around the house and gardens with him was something to treasure. Rowan Blaik, the estate’s Head Gardener, was so informative and passionate on his subject, showing us the sites of experiments that he continues to this day.
We have taken all that we learned from that day and layered it into our plans for the section of Darwin’s Garden in Shrewsbury. Our garden will be beautiful, not too tidy, unconventional and playful. This is the greatest opportunity we have to celebrate the formative years of a great scientist and a great man.
23 January 2014
Darwin’s garden purchased
Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s campaign to buy a wooded remnant of Charles Darwin’s garden in Shrewsbury has succeeded.
A major fund-raising effort by the Trust brought in donations from 435 individual donors and significant contributions from the Jean Jackson Trust, Shropshire Horticultural Society, Shropshire Masonic Charitable Association and the Daniell Charitable Trust. Students at Harper Adams held a fundraising event for the appeal. £75,000 has been raised which not only pays for the land but for essential restoration and safety work and ongoing care.
The Trust is also very grateful to John and Sharon Leach for their generous support and co-operation throughout the campaign.
“No other part of Darwin’s childhood home is accessible to the public, so when we were offered the chance to buy this slip of woodland next to the river, we were thrilled at the opportunity to open up a cherished corner of his world,” said Colin Preston, Director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
While much of the formerly extensive grounds attached to The Mount, his birthplace and childhood home, disappeared under housing, other parts survived in private gardens. This was the case with the land the Trust has bought.
Through the wood, alongside an ice house once used by the Darwins, runs a path with views down to the River Severn. It was here 200 years ago, that the young Darwin was sent every day before breakfast to walk the path at the bottom of the garden. It was known as the Thinking Path and provided a regular time for thought and reflection. The habit became ingrained in Darwin’s daily routine and when he and his wife Emma bought Down House in Kent, they made their own Sandwalk through the grounds, carrying on the tradition of morning walks with their children.
The Trust intends to restore the Thinking Path, open up views and carry out essential boundary and safety work. The garden will be opened for group visits at various times throughout the year and schoolchildren will have the chance to walk in Darwin’s footsteps, inspiring them to enjoy and explore the natural world.
The next tours of the garden will take place during the Darwin Festival, on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th February. For further details and to book your place, please ring 01743 284280. Advance booking is essential. See www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk for full details.
December 20 2013
CAP decision announced
Yesterday, the government announced plans for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the next seven years. Their decision is to initially transfer only 12% from farmers’ direct payments to the budget for environmental and rural growth schemes. The Wildlife Trusts describe the announcement on agricultural funding for 2014-2020 as a missed opportunity to boost investment in wildlife-friendly and progressive farming.
The new system favours large-scale farms but will greatly impact Shropshire’s small farms. Hill farms will be hit hardest. In May this year, The State of Nature report revealed that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades.Iconic upland wildlife species of the Shropshire Hills such as Curlew and Lapwing are examples of our disappearing wildlife and the government’s decision not to increase funding means that the future of farmland wildlife cannot be assured. Farm-environment schemes don’t just ensure that wildlife thrives on farmland: the schemes play a vital role in sustainable farming systems, protecting soil, water quality and allowing pollinators such as bees the flourish – these factors are crucial in underpinning agriculture in this country.
Although it is a relief that the status quo is being maintained for which Defra should be congratulated, the fact remains that this is insufficient to meet the huge challenges facing the natural environment.Farmland covers 69% of the English landscape. The Government needs to embed environmental protection and enhancement at the heart of agricultural activities to ensure that the good work achieved by farmers for nature over the last 25 years can be built upon.