Caroline Spelman is Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Since the publication of the groundbreaking National Ecosystems Assessment last week, we now know how to properly value the things that nature give us for free, and how to incorporate them into our decision making. On that basis, the Natural Environment White Paper, The Natural Choice, which I have launched this week, represents a unique opportunity for my generation to pass the environment on to the next in a far better state than we inherited it. We want to move from a net loss of nature to a net gain.
I am delighted to announce a competition to identify 12 Nature Improvement Areas, putting £7.5 million in to the initial phase. These areas will span across ecosystems – from the managed landscape to urban areas, to national parks – creating wildlife corridors and stepping stones to allow species space to flourish and move.
We are also supporting the development of Local Nature Partnerships. They will bring together all the interested parties in a local area to deliver environmental goals. They will ideally have strong links with Local Enterprise Partnerships to better inform decision making. Alongside this we will pilot the concept of biodiversity offsetting in the planning system, making development greener and meeting public aspiration to access green space. A new Green Areas Designation will allow local people to protect the green spaces in their local areas as part of their neighbourhood plans.