Put nature at the heart of Oxford-Cambridge Arc growth plans, say conservationists

Jun 30, 2020

Emphasis on the environment will benefit the economy

PLANS for up to a million new homes across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc can include nature to create happier and healthier communities for people and wildlife.

A group of conservation organisations are urging the government to put nature at the heart of plans for the Arc. They have produced a report outlining how nature can be restored and enhanced alongside the economic and housing development of the region.

The findings echo part of the growth strategy outlined by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership late last year. Conservationists say it is the perfect opportunity to invest in nature, improve people’s lives and realise the green recovery by building new nature-friendly towns and communities.

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, RSPB – whose  headquarters are at Sandy – the Woodland Trust and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust have jointly published a set of principles for protecting and restoring nature and tackling climate change as part of the Arc’s growth and development.

Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s operations director for Central England, said: “This is a huge opportunity to do things differently. For the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to play its part in a green recovery, it needs to have world-leading ambitions to increase nature that match and underpin its aspirations for economic growth.”

The Nature’s Arc principles emphasise the importance of access to nature and  natural green space for the health, wealth and wellbeing of people and communities. Increasing and enhancing the region’s parks, trees, woodlands, nature reserves and other natural green spaces will also benefit the economy, making the Arc a better place for businesses to invest and for people to live and work, the conservationists say.

Figures released last week by the RSPB showed widespread public support for investing in and increasing nature and natural greenspace in the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Knott said: “The principles set out by our organisations show what is needed for the Arc to deliver for nature, for people and for the economy too.”

Lockdown has underlined the importance of nature and green space to everyone’s wellbeing, added BCNWT conservation manager Matt Jackson.

Woodland Trust’s lead campaigner Jack Taylor said: “People have been connecting, or reconnecting, with nature so much more as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have found comfort and strength from daily walks in green spaces, rediscovering the joys of trees, woods and the wildlife within them. Our response to this crisis must take this into account.”

Business as usual is not an option, said Matthew Stanton, head of planning, policy and advocacy at BBOWT.

“Restoring our natural environment needs to be at the heart of plans for the arc. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a landscape in which people can benefit from a thriving natural environment that supports healthy lifestyles. Where growth is given the go-ahead, the needs of nature must be a priority.”

by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

Photos: rspb-images.com

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