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Sounding the alarm on disappearing natural beauty - CPRE

New analysis by CPRE has found that local authorities are increasingly planning major developments in AONBs, largely consisting of executive-style housing – with only 16% classed as affordable. We’ve found government pressure to increase housing numbers is forcing local authorities to prioritise new building over landscape protection.

In calling for special controls over development in areas of ‘special beauty’, CPRE’s founding manifesto of 1926 marked the origins of our campaign for protected landscapes.

By 1949, we’d helped bring about the National Parks Act – which also allowed for the creation of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to safeguard landscapes deemed not wild or large enough for National Park status, but considered equally beautiful. Beginning with the designation of the Quantocks AONB in 1956, 34 AONBs (covering 15% of England) have put natural beauty within 30 minutes of two-thirds of the population.

Worrying trends

Thanks to previous CPRE lobbying, government planning guidance recommends that ‘major development’ (10 homes or above) on AONB land should only happen under exceptional circumstances, and only when it can be demonstrated that it is in the public interest. But our new research has found that local authorities are increasingly allowing development in AONBs.

Government pressure to increase housing numbers is completely undermining AONBs’ legal purpose to ‘conserve and enhance natural beauty’. Every year since 2017/2018, we’ve seen an average of 1,670 housing units approved in AONBs – representing an annual loss of 119 hectares of supposedly protected landscape.

Find out more about our campaign for better planning and read our full AONB report.

England’s Largest Seagrass Planting Programme is Underway in Plymouth Sound - Ocean Conservation Trust

Today, on 21st April 2021, work on England’s largest seagrass planting programme is taking place in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.

Spider crab investigating new planting bags on the seabed (image: Ocean Conservation Trust)
Spider crab investigating new planting bags on the seabed (image: Ocean Conservation Trust)

A total of 16,000 seagrass seed bags and 2,200 seedling bags are being planted by the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) as part of the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES project being led by Natural England to help support and improve the resilience of our marine environment.

The four-year project aims to plant a total of eight hectares of seagrass meadows – four hectares in Plymouth Sound and four hectares in the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation.

This work is extremely important as it is estimated that the UK may have lost up to 92 per cent of its seagrass1. Factors including wasting disease, pollution and physical disturbance have been identified as contributing causes.

By planting seagrass in the Sound, the project hopes to create more seagrass meadows which provide homes for juvenile fish and protected creatures like seahorses and stalked jellyfish. Seagrass also has an integral role in stabilising the seabed, cleaning the surrounding seawater and capturing and storing significant amounts of carbon.

The OCT has been leading the restoration work as a project partner. All the seagrass seeds have been bagged at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth by Aquarium and OCT staff, as well as volunteers. Seedlings have been growing in the Aquarium’s special seagrass laboratory since January.

ReMEDIES is funded by the EU LIFE programme and led by Natural England in partnership with Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT), Marine Conservation Society, Royal Yachting Association and Plymouth City Council/Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum.

Mark Parry, Development Officer at Ocean Conservation Trust, said: “Our first successful planting effort is only possible because of all the hard work of the partners in the LIFE ReMEDIES project. These events have taken over 12 months of planning and include a combination of volunteers who have visited the National Marine Aquarium creating our planting units and our dive volunteers. This truly is a community effort. It is incredible to see the support from

Welsh youth lead the way in the fight against climate change - Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust

Wildlife Trusts in Wales launch a youth climate change project, Stand for Nature Wales

For the next three years, Wildlife Trusts in Wales will work to empower and inspire young people to take action for nature and wildlife in their local area in a bid to tackle climate change. From urban Cardiff to rural Montgomeryshire, young people are standing for nature and their futures.

There has never been a more important time to take action for nature. We are currently facing a climate and nature emergency, with 17% of species in Wales at risk of extinction. But we can change this. By putting nature into recovery, we can tackle climate change. Thriving habitats can safely lock up vast amounts of carbon, while providing other vital benefits that help us adapt, such as flood prevention, clean water and improved health and wellbeing.

Ellen, a young person on the Montgomeryshire Stand for Nature Wales youth forum said: “I think the project is important because it gives young people power to make a change. There are many problems to overcome; loss of habitat, species and tackling climate change but I am confident we can make a difference together.”

Through this vital project, Wildlife Trusts in Wales will amplify young voices and give them the skills and tools to deliver climate action in their areas. Youth forums across Wales will lead the way by harnessing the potential of nature to tackle the climate crisis. From reinstating wildflower meadows to raising awareness of the importance of our oceans and blue carbon, young people are securing a Wilder Future for Wales through local climate action.

Chris Baker, Stand for Nature Wales Project Manager said: “We know that young people are the future. This is why we are delighted to be able to empower the young people of Wales to take climate action not only for nature and wildlife, but for their own wellbeing too.”

The Wildlife Trusts are calling for at least 30% of our land and sea to be connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030. Making more space for nature to become abundant once again will give our struggling wildlife the chance to recover and also restore beautiful wild places - places that store carbon and help to tackle the climate crisis. But to achieve this, we need to stand for nature.

Pony poo for conservation at RSPB headquarters - RSPB

The RSPB headquarters has welcomed six new team members - Dartmoor ponies! And this is far from the first time the RSPB has called on larger grazing animals for their help in restoring spaces for conservation. The British Isles has lost most of its large wild herbivores, apart from deer, so we sometimes recruit them in to help restore habitats at RSPB reserves. Here we look at some ways they can help transform landscapes for everything from bugs to birds, and at how these new Dartmoor ponies will help conservation at the heart of the RSPB.

Dartmoor ponies keeping heathland in check at RSPB headquarters

On 5 April six Dartmoor ponies, named Kevin, Podkin, Pook, Barramoor Tom, Black Magic, and Roger, travelled all the way from their home in Dartmoor to RSPB headquarters, The Lodge nature reserve in Bedfordshire. Their job will be to help make the space an even more attractive home for everything from bugs to birds.

Dartmoor ponies are an endangered native breed of pony that are prized for their hardiness, even temperament, and ability to eat plants that other ponies and horses might balk at. This ability to nip, nibble, and stamp thick gorse and brambles brings in light and opens whole new pathways for them to poo in. This creates space for plants to grow, and the poo provides food for insects and bugs which themselves are tasty morsels for reptiles and birds. The dung invertebrates also play a vital role in returning nutrients back into the soil – it’s a whole circle of life revolving around pony poo.

Last year Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust wrote an article for CJS, read it here 'The Dartmoor Pony - Combining Conservation and Heritage

Today is Earth Day 2021

Restoring Our Earth by Removing Litter - Sea Watch Foundation

A stomach full of plastic rubbish is what made this humpback whale become beached on land
A stomach full of plastic rubbish is what made this humpback whale become beached on land

The very first Earth Day, in 1970, brought 20 million people together to learn about the environment, the threats it faces and how to tackle those issues. Fifty-one years later, and education is still key to tackling the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis and the human threats imposed. Earth Day’s theme for 2021 is ‘Restore Our Earth’. Sadly, the UK is a prime example of a nation’s biodiversity in desperate need of restoration. A report by The Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) highlighted that in the UK 41% of species are declining, with 1 in 10 species threatened with extinction. Meanwhile, the critical habitats that allow UK fauna and flora to flourish dwindle into non-existence. This includes habitats intricately linked to the health and wellbeing of UK cetaceans: salt marshes are in poor condition; estuaries are heavily polluted and have suffered a 95% reduction in native oysters; and 90% of our coastal seagrass meadows have been lost. The RSPB report states that while 28% of land and 24% of the sea are protected in the UK, in reality, as little as 5% is being properly cared for.

Here at Sea Watch Foundation, we play our part in protecting the UK’s environment and ensuring it is restored to its former glory. This is exemplified by our critical role in establishing the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2003. Today, Sea Watch and its army of dedicated volunteers remain on the front lines in New Quay, ensuring the SAC regulations and guidelines are upheld and that it is properly protected.

Part of the ‘Restore Our Earth’ theme for Earth Day 2021, is focused on ‘Clean-Ups’. Plastic waste in oceans is just one of the ways humans have heavily impacted the planet. At Sea Watch, possibly our favourite thing to do, albeit second to actually spotting a cetacean, is picking up a piece of plastic and knowing we’re protecting one! We take this form of pollution very seriously because of the direct threat it imposes on cetaceans and other marine organisms, upon which Cardigan Bay’s semi-resident population of Bottlenose Dolphins rely. We have all mistaken one thing for another at some point, but for cetaceans it’s fatal. Whales and dolphins are susceptible to mistaking plastic for food, with eyesight and echolocation that has evolved to perfectly identify fish and jellies but not to distinguish man-made materials. Plastic ingested by dolphins and whales is no short of horrific. Not only are their stomachs being filled by indigestible material, leaving less and less space for real food, but the plastics act as a perfect carrier of harmful ‘hitchhiking’ bacteria and microbes. Starved, choking, and diseased, these whales and dolphins are suffering unnecessarily. This is something we don’t want to see on our watch, which is why cleanups are so important to us. They provide an immediate improvement to the environment and the effective removal of a very serious threat to our marine species.

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