International experts say we are heading towards a global biodiversity emergency. We must act in Shropshire – now

Look around you. Trees are being felled. Hedges grubbed out. Arable fields are too often growing a monoculture crop boosted by chemicals. Biodiversity is the loser. As will be humanity if we continue this way.

Few of us have heard of the body that published a technical report on the loss and threat to all manner of species today. But that doesn’t make the report from the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) any less important. It is one of the most important environmental reports of this decade. It states bluntly that almost all environmental indicators show the health of nature is decreasing. Biodiversity is dying.

Like tackling climate change, we must do what we can locally. That means ensuring that new developments not only lead to biodiversity gain but deliver that gain more quickly. It means we must cut down fewer trees and hedges. It means we must set aside more land for nature.

If we want prosperity, we can’t destroy the environment that supports our wellbeing. We need to work with nature not against it.

The IPBES is the biodiversity partner of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Today’s report says nature is in trouble and one million species of plants and animals are at risk of going extinct. The scientists blame development leading to loss of habitat, climate change, overfishing, pollution and invasive species. Species are being lost tens or hundreds of times faster than before. The panel’s scientists blame the biodiversity crisis on humanity. They say there is still time to save the planet if governments, companies and individuals act.

It’s a wake-up call. We should heed it.

The IPBES report says that biodiversity is not just about birds, bugs and beasties – it’s a development issue, an economic issue, a social issue and a moral issue. Nature is essential for food production, for pure water, for medicines and for the wellbeing of people and society.

This is a report about global issues. It talks a lot about the large-scale destruction of the natural environment underway on other continents. The question is for us in Shropshire is what we can do here right now. There are many actions we can take.  

Shropshire Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan has not been updated for a decade. The council’s excuse is that the government stopped funding it. Surely a council that cared about our county’s future would have an up to date plan for its biodiversity as well as its economy.

Planning policies in the county – and nationally – assume that biodiversity is a secondary consideration. Build first, stick a few trees and plant pond sometime afterwards. We need to insist developers introduce biodiversity improvements early on in developments. Once a tree is cut down – and more than 100 will be cut down for the Foldgate Lane housing development – it will be decades before any replacements host the same richness of biodiversity.

We need to link biodiverse areas into a network of wildlife corridors, not just isolated pockets. The London Borough of Brent is creating a seven mile Bee Corridor. That’s just one example of how we can make biodiversity work at a local level. Why aren’t we doing that in Shropshire?

The council is promoting the North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury despite the damage it will wreak on ancient ponds, silted up oxbows and veteran trees. It should rethink the route and the concept.

We must stop massacring verges in the name of tidiness. We must maintain sight lines for safety. But huge areas are routinely mown down with monotonous regularity because of our obsession with short grass. Shropshire Council made clear last year it doesn’t understand how it can help biodiversity and save money at the same time by changing its mowing regime. It regards biodiverse rich verges as the exception not the norm.

From biodiverse to ugly – a verge on the edge of Ludlow

At today’s press conference in Paris, Sir Bob Watson praised the IPBES report:

“But we must recognise that the basic message is the same as what the scientific community has been saying for more than 30 years. Biodiversity is important in its own right. Biodiversity is important for human wellbeing and we humans are destroying it… In 1992 the Earth Summit in Brazil… recognised that biodiversity loss needed to be halted. Since 1992, the loss of biodiversity has accelerated. We ignored the warnings of 30 years ago. Unless we act now, we undermine wellbeing for future generations.”

We should not wait for national and international bodies to negotiate agreements. We should make promoting biodiversity central to all our policies and actions in this county.

We must stop wringing our hands and muttering apologies for what we are doing to our planet. We need to protect and enhance what we have. The time to do that is not tomorrow. It is today. We have a biodiversity emergency. We need to tackle it at local, national and international level. We must tackle it root and branch, if you will excuse the pun. 

Sign the petition to ban hedge netting by developers to stop birds nesting.

Sign the petition to make “hedgehog highways” mandatory on all new builds.

Bird netting at Rocks Green in Ludlow ripped away – a bad move ahead of a planned protest

The green netting put in place to prevent birds nesting at Rocks Green has been pulled away. This was not an act by the developer or the landowner. It was an action by eco-protesters. But this is a stupid way of protesting. A demonstration was organised next Sunday against this scheme and in support of the growing national campaign against hedge netting. But there is no longer a backdrop to the banners. The media are now unlikely to turn out.

The developer has confirmed that new netting will not be reinstalled.

I don’t approve of netting except under the most strictly regulated circumstances. Those regulations don’t yet exist and I have asked Ludlow’s MP Philip Dunne to attend a debate in Parliament to insist on better controls.

Continue reading “Bird netting at Rocks Green in Ludlow ripped away – a bad move ahead of a planned protest”

Petition against hedge netting passes 200,000 signatures. Ludlow protest planned. RSPB takes tough stance against netting. Please write to your MP

Last night, the petition against the growing practice of netting hedges and trees to prevent birds nesting passed 200,000 signatures. It is still growing.

Campaigners are to meet to protest against the hedge netting at Rocks Green at 11am on Sunday 14 April, SY8 2DS. More than 6,000 people have joined the Facebook group, Nesting not Netting!

Ecologists and the RSPB have issued a new statement advising against netting and, should it be deemed necessary, for inspections every three hours.

I have written to Ludlow’s MP Philip Dunne asking him to act and attend the forthcoming debate in parliament.

Continue reading “Petition against hedge netting passes 200,000 signatures. Ludlow protest planned. RSPB takes tough stance against netting. Please write to your MP”

Parliament to debate banning netting of hedgerows after petition hits 100K signatures

All eyes have been on the Revoke Article 50 petition, which will comfortably pass 5 million signatures. Another petition I have been supporting aims to ban developers from netting hedges. The aim of developers is to ‘prevent’ birds nesting before hedges are cleared by bulldozers and trees felled with chainsaws. Netting is an ugly practice. It not only looks ugly but it traps all manner of wildlife.

At just after 10.00am on 24 March, the petition passed 100,000 signatures. That means it will be considered for a debate in parliament. We must all lobby our MPs to ensure that debate happens.

Continue reading “Parliament to debate banning netting of hedgerows after petition hits 100K signatures”

We live in an growing biodiversity desert – Rocks Green developers are making it worse with hedge netting that traps birds (updated)

Over the last couple of weeks, green netting has been put over hedgerows at Rocks Green. The aim is to prevent birds nesting. It will not work. Hedge nesting birds will get through the gaps in the netting with ease. When I visited yesterday morning, I could hear birds within the netted hedgerow. I could not see any nests but I would be surprised if there were none. This is in breach of planning documents submitted by the developer that says hedges will not be removed during the nesting season. But that is exactly what they are planning.  

We live in a town that is biodiversity poor. Many of the fields around Ludlow resemble east of England prairies.

We have some biodiversity havens around Ludlow. The Teme SSSI. There are biodiverse rich broadleaf areas across the Mortimer Forest including the Whitcliffe. That’s despite the intensive conifer plantations in the main forest area. But south of Ludford village, the landscape resembles an East England prairie. It’s not better across much of the Plymouth Estate from Dinham Bridge to Bromfield. East of the A49 bypass, Ludford is biodiversity poor.

That’s why we must make every stride we can to protect birds – and hedgehogs.

Continue reading “We live in an growing biodiversity desert – Rocks Green developers are making it worse with hedge netting that traps birds (updated)”