An ambitious vision to help boost nature and drive a green economic recovery has been unveiled by the South Downs National Park Authority and partners.
The bold strategy, covering the South East region, aims to create a connected network of “green infrastructure” that makes havens for wildlife, supports local economies, helps to mitigate climate change and gives local people all the health and wellbeing benefits of a better natural environment.
Twelve areas across the region – primarily on the edge or beyond the National Park’s boundaries – have been identified as key areas for long-term investment in more green infrastructure.
The detailed masterplan, called The People and Nature Network (PANN), has been produced in partnership with a range of organisations, including dozens of local authorities across Hampshire and Sussex, the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, English Heritage and the Environment Agency.
Andrew Lee, director of countryside policy and management for the South Downs National Park Authority, explains: “The ethos behind this ambitious strategy is that nature is working invisibly, every day, to keep our environment healthy for both wildlife and people. Nature provides us with clean water, fresh air, food to eat, and tranquil places to enjoy with our families. Yet we can never take it for granted as our natural environment is sadly under threat from climate change and global biodiversity decline, together with the fact that we’re living in one of the most crowded parts of the UK.
“Nature doesn’t recognise administrative boundaries and that’s why the People and Nature Network is such a vital piece of work – laying out our collective long-term ambition, at both a regional and national level, to promote more green infrastructure. That could be creating a wildflower meadow in an urban area, improving the greenery along a canal, laying a hedgerow or planting more street trees.
“Every bit of this interconnected green network plays its part in supporting wildlife and also our communities, whether that be through boosting the tourism economy or just being an uplifting space for people to enjoy the natural world.
“We have this amazing natural space in the National Park, but its benefits don’t stop at the designation boundary. This plan aims to make space for nature in urban as well as rural environments and create links with the National Park which already has over 1,000 nature conservation areas.”