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Making Space for Nature – 10 years on

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Dr Peter Brotherton, Natural England's Director for Specialist Services and Programmes, reflects on the Lawton report 10 years on. 

Exactly ten years ago, on 16 September 2010, I had the privilege of submitting the Making Space for Nature report to government on behalf of Professor Sir John Lawton and his panel of experts. The report was strongly evidence-based and the culmination of a year’s work by Sir John and his panel, which was drawn from academia, nature conservation, local government, land owning, farming and business sectors. Natural England was represented on the panel by our then Chief Scientist, Tom Tew, and provided the secretariat (me!).

Making Space for Nature – now widely known as the Lawton report - had immediate policy impact, shaping both the Natural Environment White Paper and the Biodiversity 2020 strategy. After a decade, many reports become outdated, but the main conclusions of the Lawton report have stood the test of time and been supported by recent research. Perhaps because of this, the report continues to inform government current policy, not least the 25 Year Environment Plan.

Today, on the 10th anniversary of the report, Sir John and his panel have written to the Prime Minister. In their letter they acknowledge the policy impact that the Lawton report has had over the past decade, but also note that there has been far too little progress towards establishing the ‘more bigger better and joined’ spaces for nature called for in the report. This is bad for wildlife but also bad for people. As the letter says: “[wildlife] losses represent a decline in resilience of the ecosystems upon which we depend and a loss of experience and joy: there are too few places left where a child can walk through a cloud of butterflies or sit amongst a rainbow of flowers.” In their letter, the panel asks the Prime Minister to urgently commit an additional £1 billion to rebuild England’s natural infrastructure, including by enhancing our remaining wildlife sites, embarking on a bold restoration agenda by rapidly establishing large Nature Recovery Areas, and bringing nature closer to people. Delivering an effective Nature Recovery Network on land and sea is also at the heart of Natural England’s mission. You can read the full letter to the Prime Minister here.

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  1. Comment by Jennifer Wilson posted on

    Protecting nature & the UK’s biodiversity is at the very bottom of the government’s agenda. This is highlighted by government promoting the Sizewell C project which will result in the devastation of Suffolk Coast & Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty concreting 10ha of Sizewell Marshes SSSI with a four lane elevated access road harming RSPB Minsmere its Ramsar site SSSI SAC SPA as well as the MCZ. The area is a mosaic of wildlife rich habitat that has taken millennia to evolve & it must be afforded the protection its many designations warrant.

  2. Comment by Kathy Meakin posted on

    Money needs to be ring fenced for the monitoring of nature's recovery. We do not have a systematic and standardised method to validate projects trying to deliver on the Lawton principles. Models must be ground truthed.

  3. Comment by Dr Sara Collins posted on

    I am very pleased to see that Sir John Lawton has written to Boris Johnson. I particularly agree with his point 'We owe it to our children.' We have been calling for a Nature Premium to fund regular nature experiences for all children. It is an opportunity to inspire a generation to reconnect with the natural world and and contribute to the UK's green recovery.

  4. Comment by Jennifer Anne Hurst posted on

    'Natural' England is an aboration to the meaning of ''Nature'' It has unashamedly damaged the environmental balance and destroyed wildlife. It is biased, prejudiced and openly following its own agenda in all its actions. And it lies to the British public.
    I am at a loss for words and this statement doesn't warrant any more.

  5. Comment by Victoria Mew posted on

    I dearly hope this letter is not only well received but acted upon in full. If the government could get behind some of the inspirational grassroots movements that are in total alignment with the recommended actions of this letter, such as the FSA's proposed Nature Premium, and the Children's Forest that creatively combines eco-restoration with children and community's nature connection, it would make all the difference...

  6. Comment by Brian posted on

    I wonder if Sir John Lawton has had a reply as yet to his request for £1bn?

  7. Comment by Doug Kennedy posted on

    As someone who spends about half of their time working to protect our environment, it is hard not to despair. I agree with Ms Wilson's comments which could apply in most places. There is no linking between stated aspirations for the environment and planning policy, house building, road building, the green belt destruction, pollution of air and water.
    And the money devoted to our environment keeps being reduced.