These are the proposals in the manifesto, listed by the ministry. You may comment on the proposals, preferably with a view to selecting something for action. If you would like this to be considered as a project for further discussion as to the exact action desired, please advise in the comment.

Urban Spaces Aims

1. Planning permission should be required for the paving, decking and fake-turfing of more than 10% of any garden. Private house gardens, when considered together in an urban setting, form a coherent network of green spaces which are extremely valuable in a city. Paving, decking and fake-turfing these spaces can increase chances of localised flooding by leaving less soil available to absorb rainwater, as well as removing important habitat favoured by many declining species, such hedgehogs or house sparrows.

2. Hedgehog holes should be made compulsory in all new fencing. The hedgehog, one of the most iconic and loved animals of the British countryside, is vanishing before our eyes. Their population is thought to have declined from 1.55 million in 1995 to fewer than 1 million in 2015, 4 mostly due to urbanisation, habitat loss and pesticide use. 5 What this means in practice is that entire areas of the countryside , such as rural south-west of England, are now completely devoid of hedgehogs. 4 However, research has also highlighted the value of back gardens as a refuge, and how vital these small green oasis can be 5. For example, hedgehogs’ favourite gardens are those of semi-detached and terraced houses, as the larger gardens may include habitat favoured by their natural predators. 6 Also of crucial importance is that gardens can be linked up by small CD-sized holes in the fencing (these are known as Hedgehog Highways), which makes it easier for hedgehogs to roam and forage. * This figure corresponds to the recorded decline from 1994 to 2004. Earlier records, however, tell us aL different, much more dramatic story. When Max Nicholson, the founding father of WWF, surveyed theL house sparrow population of Kensington gardens in 1925, he counted 2,603 individuals. In the year 2000,L when he repeated the count for the last time, he only found 8. This suggests we may have lost 99% of theL house sparrow population in the UK, and highlights the importance of looking at historical records to get aL bigger, more truthful picture.

3. Swift/sparrow/starling boxes must be built into all new-build homes, with incentives for retro-fitting of nest boxes on older properties. Swifts, house sparrows and starlings have all suffered a huge decline. Swifts have declined by 51% since 1975, 7 while house sparrows, a species well known for its ability to thrive in urban areas, has declined by 60% in London between 1994 and 2004. 8 Part of this decline is due to habitat loss. Swifts have traditionally found sanctuary in our urban environment during their summer visits from Africa, but new builds or retrofits are seldom designed with wildlife in mind. 9 Swift bricks are a specially designed brick with a built-in swift nest inside. They have been designed to fit neatly alongside standard UK brick sizes, while also serving as a nest box for our summer visitors. 10 It has been estimated that we need to create 20,000 new swift nesting sites every year to stabilise the current population.

4. Native shrubs and trees must be used in municipal planting schemes and new build gardens to increase insect abundance. Native shrubs attract invertebrates, which lay eggs on the leaves and stems of plants, as well as visit the flowers for nectar and pollen. Many species of moth and butterfly, for example, cannot complete their life-cycle without specific plants, such as birch, oak, hawthorn and buckthorn. 11 The more native plants we grow in new-build developments and municipal planting schemes, the more invertebrates will be able to feed and breed. This will also provide food for those animals further up the food chain, such as birds, hedgehogs, amphibians and bats.

5. There should be greater incentives such as free compost bins and reduced council tax bills for home-composting. Home composting has multiple benefits: enriching your garden’s soil with a natural fertiliser, 12 reducing unnecessary waste going to landfill and in turn lowering pressure on local authorities. Compost heaps also provide habitats for wildlife such as hedgehogs, bumblebees and slow worms.

6. Significant public funding should be available to keep parks and urban green spaces open. Even though park use is rising in the UK, with 57% of adults and 90% of families with children under five years old visiting their local park at least once a month, park maintenance budgets and staffing levels are being cut. 13 This trend need to be reversed at once, as urban green spaces not only ensure people have regular access to nature, but also provide a much needed refuge for wildlife. Parks are also extremely important in reducing air pollution and noise, whilst lowering the impact of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves or floods. 14 Furthermore, regular access to green space has a positive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing 15 and public parks are especially important for this as they provide a safe space where people can connect with each other.

7. There should be long-term and secure public funding to transform our cities into National Parks. Transforming cities into National Parks may hold a number of benefits, from giving the plants and animals that inhabit them further legal protection, to promoting the use and maintenance of green spaces, to making the cities greener and healthier. Greening our cities will not only improve conditions for their residents but attract more wildlife to live among us. Cities have the potential to be green, habitat-rich areas, packed with trees and parks for people to enjoy and wildlife to live among. But these things need to be valued and protected. London has 8.4 million trees, which provide the city with 13% tree cover: enough to define the city as a forest by the UN’s own definition 16. These trees deliver £132.7 million worth of ecosystem services to London each year, 17 from carbon storage, flood mitigation, pollution removal and temperature regulation. They also make streets more pleasant, help lower city temperatures and reduce the velocity of wind.

8. All municipal parks should have a minimum of 10% given over to wildflower meadows and have mandatory wildlife friendly ponds. Between 1930 and 1983 we have lost 97% of the wildflower-rich meadows in England and Wales, 18 and the decline hasn’t stopped. These precious, biodiverse and quintessentially British ecosystems now survive almost exclusively in the memories of those who are old enough to remember them. However, those same flowers that characterised our lowland meadows can be successfully planted within urban settings, providing all the same benefits to people and wildlife alike. Transforming 10% of all municipal parks into wildflower meadows would restore a significant amount of land in the UK back to floristically rich grasslands, supporting the recovery of pollinators around the country and creating more opportunities for outdoor education.

9. All new-build estates must have a communal pond and wildlife friendly communal ‘green spaces’ to be maintained by development or management company. Common frog, common toad and natterjack toad populations have been in decline since the 1970s, while recent research conducted by Froglife and the University of Zurich suggests that common toad populations have declined across the UK by 68% over the past 30 years. 19 Reasons for these losses include the loss and degradation of ponds in the wild, as well as the disappearance of garden ponds in suburban and urban areas. Ponds also provide habitats for invertebrates with aquatic larvae, as well as a drinking and bathing spot for birds and mammals. Designing all new-build estates with a communal pond and wildlife friendly green spaces will offer a safe environment for families and adults to connect with nature, as well as giving our urban wildlife a habitat to feed and breed.

10.Areas earmarked for future development should be used as temporary ‘pop-up’ habitats typically sown with quick-growing annual flower mixes to provide food for pollinators. This is a cheap and easy way to support urban wildlife - by creating more floristically rich grassland in our towns and cities, we can both provide food for pollinators and quickly build green corridors for roaming mammals, such as hedgehogs and foxes.

References:

4. Williams, B.M., Baker, P.J., Thomas, E., Wilson, G., Judge, J., Yarnell, R.W. (2018) Reduced occupancy of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural England and Wales: The influence of habitat and an asymmetric intraguild predator. Scientific Reports8:12156
5. Anouschka, H., Bright, P. (2009). The Value of Green-Spaces in Built-up Areas for Hedgehogs.
Lutra 52 (2): 69-82
6. Dowding, C.V., Harris, S., Poulton, S., Baker, P.J. (2010). Nocturnal Ranging Behaviour of Urban Hedgehogs, Erinaceus Europaeus, in Relation to Risk and Reward.
Animal Behaviour80(1): 13–21. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347210001375
7. Defra. 2011. “Wild Bird Populations in England.” [Online]. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20111108202827/http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/110120-stats-wild-bird-pop-eng.pdf(August 29, 2018)
8. Peach, Will J., K. E. Vincent, J. A. Fowler, and P. V. Grice. 2008. “Reproductive Success of House Sparrows along an Urban Gradient.”
Animal Conservation.
9. Lucie, M., Zasadil, P., Moudrý, V.,
Šálek, M. (2018). What Makes New Housing Development Unsuitable for House Sparrows (Passer Domesticus)? Landscape and Urban Planning169: 124–30
10. RSPB. 2013. Facts about Swift Bricks [Online]. Available at: 
https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/documents/conservation--sustainability/help-swifts/swift-bricks.pdf(August 29, 2018).
11. Royal Horticultural Society. Native and non-native plants for plant-dwelling invertebrates. [online] Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=1019(Accessed 08/09/2018)
12.
Vázquez, M.A., Soto, M. (2017). The efficiency of home composting programmes and compost quality. Waste Management 64, 39–50
13. Heritage Lottery Fund (2016). State of UK Public Parks [Online]. Available at: https://www.hlf.org.uk/state-uk-public-parks-2016(Accessed 09/09/2018)
14. World Health Organisation (2017). Urban Green Spaces: A Brief for Action.
15.
Coldwell, D.F., Evans, K.L. (2018). Visits to urban green-space and the countryside associate with different components of mental well-being and are better predictors than perceived or actual local urbanisation intensity. Landscape and Urban Planning175, 114–122
16.
Chazdon, R. L., Brancalion, P. H. S., Laestadius, L., Bennett-Curry, A., Buckingham, K., Kumar, C., … Wilson, S. J. (2016). When is a forest a forest? Forest concepts and definitions in the era of forest and landscape restoration. Ambio45(5), 538–550
17. Rogers, K., Sacre, K., Goodenough, J., Doick, K. (2015). Valuing London’s Urban Forest. Hill & Garwood Printing Limited. ISBN 978-0-9571371-1-0
18.
State of Nature report (2016). Available at: rspb.org.uk/stateofnature(Accessed 25/07/2018)
19. Froglife (2018). Amphibian and reptile decline - UK perspective. [online] Available at: 
https://www.froglife.org/2018/03/23/amphibian-and-reptile-declines-uk-perspective/(Accessed 13/09/2018)

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Social Inclusion and Access to Nature Aims
Trees Aims
 

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Saturday, 23 February 2019