13 September 2012

New Threat to Garden Wildlife?

Not long after major changes were made to the National Planning Framework to boost ‘sustainable development,’ a new change to encourage further development has been announced. There will be a one-month consultation on allowing homeowners and businesses to be able to build much bigger extensions without planning permission for a three-year period. What do these changes potentially mean for wildlife?

Gardens: Vital habitats for wildlife
“It is widely acknowledged amongst wildlife conservation organisations and others that the UK’s 15 million or so gardens provide important homes for wildlife,” says Froglife’s CEO Kathy Wormald. “Many of the creatures that are declining in the countryside, such as the Common frog, can thrive very well in a domestic garden. Another strong argument that is often put forward for encouraging wildlife gardening is that the patchwork of urban gardens covers a greater area than all the nature reserves in the country, and can therefore enormously increase the provision of wildlife friendly habitats. So how do we square this with the new Permitted Development Rights proposal by the government?”

With the changes to the Planning Framework potentially threatening to speed up development of areas of the countryside and speed up habitat loss and fragmentation, this further suggestion could eat away at vital urban green spaces. If the plans go ahead, full planning permission, currently required for extensions of more than three or four meters from the rear wall of any home, would only be needed for those reaching beyond 8m for detached homes and 6m for others. Although extensions may not go beyond half the size of a garden, if this proposal does go through and substantial numbers of homeowners take advantage of this three year reprieve, we could see a vast reduction in garden sizes - having a direct impact on our native wildlife that have increasing become dependent on these habitats. There are also suggested changes to 106 provision in new developments, which often includes the creation of nature reserves, allotments and planting trees.

“We certainly appreciate the economic difficulties that we are dealing with,” adds Kathy. “However we do not believe that the proposed changes will have a lasting effect on improving the economic situation. It will have a lasting effect on our wildlife; we won’t get these habitats back. Why is it that our natural world is always forgotten in the larger scheme of things? I’m sure that there are better ways to encourage sustainable growth, underpinned by recognizing the value wildlife brings to our lives and our economy.”
Photo: Jules Howard

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