Skip to main content

Tony Juniper - significant steps towards a green industrial revolution

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Uncategorized

Efforts to improve the state of the natural environment in England are poised to take significant steps forward, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution, one that is geared to meeting the twin crises of climate change and Nature decline.

As we approach humanity’s last chance to stem greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid potentially catastrophic climatic shifts, to avert a global mass extinction of animals and plants and to ensure the whole of society benefits from a healthy environment, it is vital that individual countries step up with leadership.

I am delighted to see that leadership gathering momentum here in the UK, bolstering our Natural England vision for a future in which we secure Thriving Nature for People and Planet – a vision that is evidently shared by the Prime Minister. Big visions like this are vital, and so is delivery on the ground.

Earlier this month Natural England launched the delivery partnership that will establish a Nature Recovery Network (NRN) across countryside, towns and coast, linking up protected sites, creating large areas of new wildlife-rich habitat and restoring our treasured landscapes, making Nature accessible to everybody. It is the biggest nationwide conservation project in England’s history, but it can only succeed if the political will is there - today’s announcement shows that it increasingly it is.

The 10 point plan will help to give us the mechanisms and the boots on the ground needed to drive forward in pursuit of that Nature Recovery Network. The Green Recovery Challenge Fund has already helped a number of our key partners who are feeling the financial effects of coronavirus just at the time the country and we need them most. The advent of a second £40 million round of funding will bolster threatened jobs and create new ones, enabling organisations to play a full role in restoring Nature with us, as well as helping people with a wide range of experience and education build careers in conservation. Natural England is very much looking forward to working with our partners to bring forward the very best projects for funding. As the Prime Minister’s announcement makes clear, there is much work to be done.

image of the Yorkshire Dales, including drystone walls and rolling lush green fields.

Natural England is of course also responsible for designation or extension of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as we’ve seen with the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. Restoring Nature in these places, and adding new National Parks and AONBs to those already designated, will take a great deal of effort and will be a very visible and inspiring demonstration of the country’s renewed commitment to Nature.

But is this also the time to think about a new type of national park – closer to or even within our major cities perhaps, more focused on Nature and landscape restoration and mitigating climate change, more immediately accessible to everybody? We need all our protected landscapes to serve the needs of the country now, as much as the ones created in the 1950s helped rebuild the country after the Second World War. We are starting work to identify the areas that most benefit from and merit designation, as well as continuing our work to restore Nature and reach out to a new generation and a new diversity of visitors in the existing National Parks and AONBs.

The prospect of 10 Landscape Recovery projects is hugely exciting, and we very much look forward to starting work to make the very best of the efforts of land managers and farmers who, as we know from our work with them on the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, are already committed to making their farms wild and greener and joining together to make a difference at a landscape scale. These projects will use the new Environmental Land Management scheme to provide wilder habitat for a variety of important species. They will create carbon sinks and natural flood defences, for example by restoring our peatlands and planting trees, and will restore landscapes through more extensive grazing schemes by drawing on our relationships with land managers established through decades of work on earlier agri-environment schemes.

There are a number of examples of this type of partnership work already in place, including the Wild Ken Hill project in Norfolk. This estate spans woodlands, farmland, heathland and coastal marshes near the Wash. Through Countryside Stewardship a broad partnership is rewetting marshes, restoring biodiversity and allowing marginal farmland to return to scrub and woodland pasture, bringing benefits for Nature, climate and people.

Of course today’s announcement is not all that we and Government have in mind for the recovery of the natural environment. New provisions, powers and targets coming with the Environment and Fisheries Bills and the Agriculture Act will also drive progress, placing much greater emphasis on producing food from land and sea in a sustainable way and firmly embedding restoring Nature for the public good. These vital pieces of legislation will encourage the recovery of Nature on precisely the vast scale needed to provide more, bigger, better and joined places for Nature, as envisaged by the Lawton Report a decade ago. And they will help to achieve the Prime Minister’s recently-stated ambition to protect 30% of the UK’s land for Nature by 2030.

Taken together, these approaches to restoring Nature will provide many of the building blocks needed for the Nature Recovery Network and, ultimately, the achievement of the 25 Year Environment Plan. They will bring multiple benefits for our country: sustain the flow of clean water; catch and store carbon from the atmosphere; reduce flood risk; help to support our long term food security and, by bringing thriving Nature within everyone’s reach, help to tackle some major public health challenges, including in relation to mental health. Not only will all this improve the long-term health of our society, but also our economy, securing the green recovery that has during these past months been so widely spoken of, including by the Prime Minister himself.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Simon Mesner posted on

    The 10 point plan is woefully short of what is needed. Tony should be constructively criticising it. Compare the money promised (much of it already allocated) to the cost of HS2, something that will only increase the degradation of the environment and bring very little reduction in vehicle transport as is being promised.

    Far too little as always.

  2. Comment by Alistair Whybrow posted on

    Hello Tony
    I was wondering if anything could be done to include integral swift nest boxes as a net biodiversity gain in planning applications as currently I understand they are not included. If it was required that a planning application had the ratio at least a minimum equivalence of 1 box per new dwelling it would be a start or say bonus points if swift boxes, bat and bee boxes were included or the ratio exceeded the minimum ratio?
    Why integral swift nest boxes? Well as I understand integral swift nest boxes are used by many species including house martins, sparrows, blue/great tits, nuthatches, bats, insects and swifts while swifts can't use specialist boxes such as sparrow or bat boxes. The Duchy of Cornwall projects at Nansledan, Barrett at Aylesbury and even swift enthusiasts such as Brian Cahalane in Northern Ireland who's experience with swifts is that the more boxes he puts on his house the more swifts he gets as well as house martins.
    The definition of habitat is another interesting discussion point. Planners like to zone activities e.g industrial and housing, shopping and recreation which is fine but we have a population now who jump in their cars and travel from zone to zone to enjoy the benefits each zone offers. Wildlife doesn't recognise planning zones and will exist where there is suitable habitat. So even industrial buildings or office buildings should be obligated to provide net biodiversity gain. e.g tall buildings could have peregrine platforms on them which would help control pigeons.
    The other thing you can have all the habitat you want for swifts (basically it is all the atmosphere from sea level to at least 10000 feet between Northern Europe and Southern Africa) but without nesting sites the species in the UK is doomed. The UK with its modern built houses is providing less and less nesting sites which is why integral swift nest boxes in new builds for swifts should be included as a biodiversity net gain.
    Additionally when ecological surveys are done for planning applications (especially with older buildings)swifts get overlooked as they are migratory and won't be obvious (e.g. site surveys done outside of the 12 weeks they are here in the summer) and the area they use is so large. In someways it is like building supermarkets and not building homes for humans and then wondering why the human population is declining because they don't have any homes to breed/live in.....
    Lastly I know some people don't like birds on their houses but it is amazing to think a swift will fly from Africa to Europe and come back to its nest site (e.g. my house is the only one with nest boxes in a cul de sac of at least 10 houses) year after year and I see it as a honour to be able to help this species practically and if people realised they could do something so simple to make such a big difference perhaps it would improve mental well being and life satisfaction.
    I hope you can do something to help this iconic summer bird which has had such a dramatic decline in the last 20 years..
    Many thanks
    Alistair Whybrow
    Kingsteington Swifts

  3. Comment by Louise Bentley posted on

    This is all very positive but we must not forget our urban biodiversity and its value to densely populated areas. I'm talking of building dependent species that currently receive no protection outside the breeding season, Swifts and House Martins. They are being lost in great numbers. Internal Bird bricks and bowls are rarely included by Developers despite the Planning system's references to enhance biodiversity. These birds are ecosystem service providers and they greatly enhance our enjoyment of Summer. Dont let our skies fall silent.

  4. Comment by Margaret Lesley Edmonds posted on

    Please look at the application for continuation of cement making in the Peak District National Park.
    Shale - a raw material is exhausted - so plan is for alternative material to extend the industry here. A further application will extend the width of the quarry.
    During Covid 19 is was very obvious to all for the need for this National Park sited as it is between Sheffield and Manchester.
    Better use could be made of this site and alternative jobs created.