From mystical ancient woodlands to quiet churchyards and bustling flower-rich roadsides; the UK enjoys special, often unnoticed, wild places where nature thrives: Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are valuable areas of land protected through the goodwill of their owners and managers (individuals or organisations including farmers, businesses, charities, schools and estates). These special places do not have the protection of a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and form a critical part of the country's ecological network. These sites make up the fabric of the countryside and act as wildlife refuges in towns and cities. Many scarce habitats are largely confined to these sites, as are the species which depend on them for their survival; they are of huge importance to threatened wildlife, and complement and link nature reserves by allowing wildlife to move about more freely.
Nationally there are more than 42,000 in England; together they make up 5% of England’s land area. Local Wildlife Sites have been recognised in the government's National Planning Policy Framework in the past, which helps to protects them from being developed for housing, roads or industry. Even with this protection, some are lost each year.
Locally these sites cover 2.8% of Cambridgeshire, 7% of Bedfordshire and 5%of Northamptonshire. In Bedfordshire Dunstable Meadow, top, a small site on the edge of Dunstable, was once much larger before half was lost to housing development. Sharnbrook Summit, right, nature reserve and LWS, is currently under threat from the development of a new village in northern Bedfordshire. Cambridgeshire has one of the lowest area coverage of priority and high quality wildlife habitats in England. Since 2001, 15 sites have been destroyed, partially destroyed or damaged as a result of developments approved through the planning system. In Northamptonshire three LWS have been directly lost or damaged by development in the last five years. Many more are under threat due to adjacent development such as Upton Mill Lake South LWS or Tailby Meadow, a wildflower meadow in Desborough which has recently had approval for 500 houses to be built adjacent to it.
The Government is proposing to take all reference to Local Wildlife Sites out of the National Planning Policy Framework, which means removing protection for all Local Wildlife Sites.
We believe this could be a disaster for wildlife.