WILDLIFE campaigners have issued a rallying cry to nature lovers to act swiftly to influence Government policy on farming and planning.

Durham Wildlife Trust is appealing to anyone who wants to see nature’s fortunes improve to respond to government countryside consultations which end in early May.

The consultations present a very rare opportunity – the first in living memory – to influence the future of both national farming and planning policy and how these impact on nature in England.

Precious wild places and the species that depend on them have suffered catastrophic declines over the past 70 years with intensive farming and urbanisation being major causes.

Now the public has a chance to call for a new approach to the environment – one that means planning rules, farm support and regulation work together to deliver an environment that benefits people and wildlife.

Jim Cokill, Director Durham Wildlife Trust, says: “Decisions about housing and farming are fundamental to the future of wildlife in this country.

"Now is the time to write to the Government to ask for wildlife to be taken more seriously in planning decisions – not least to call for protection of Local Wildlife Sites to be reinstated.

"These are sites that are the backbone of nature conservation across the country and often have higher wildlife value than sites that are legally protected. There is also an opportunity to have your say on agricultural policy, to help deliver a system that properly rewards farmers for the work that benefits our society as a whole.”

The consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework closes on 10th May and can be accessed by clicking here.

The rules that guide planning for development will shape the future of housing. The Wildlife Trusts want to see rules that:

• Protect wildlife and secure recognition of Local Wildlife Sites, which lose protection under the current proposals.

• Integrate wildlife habitats into new developments to benefit both wildlife and people.

• Commit to improvements from all development. What is known as net biodiversity gain.

• Require that new developments contribute to the national ‘Nature Recovery Network’ called for by Government in DEFRA’s recent 25-year plan by including this in local planning strategies.

The consultation on the future for food, farming and the environment closes on May 8 and can be accessed by clicking here.

It asks where public money, in the form of subsidies to farmers, should be spent in the future. It will also help to establish how the rules and standards for land management should be set and enforced.

Farming practices are seen as one of the key reasons for wildlife decline in the countryside, so nature’s recovery depends on changes in the way that farmland is managed.

The Durham Wildlife Trust says that works for wildlife can be good for people, too. Farmers need healthy soils and large populations of pollinators, like bees, to grow crops. We all need clean, healthy water running into our rivers.

To ensure this, trust want to see rules that:

1. Reward farmers and land managers for the benefits they provide for society, like clean water, healthy soils and a wildlife-rich countryside.

2. Replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a system that supports public benefits and environmental outcomes for society.

3. Change the culture of regulation, making it easier for farmers to help nature without being weighed down by paperwork, inspections and bureaucracy.

More information about The Wildlife Trusts’ #ActSwiftly campaign can be found by clicking here.