1. Local sites
Because of the way sites are selected for national protection, the wildlife-rich habitats of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire receive virtually no legal protection. Just over one percent of our region is protected – the national average is just under eight percent.
Our Local Wildlife Sites, without the status of national sites, but which may have just as much wildlife value, therefore support the vast majority of our wildlife. Most survive thanks to sympathetic landowners, and they need support. Without these sites quite simply we would have virtually no wildlife left.”
Matt Jackson, Head of Conservation, Policy and Strategy at Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Local Wildlife Sites are sites with ‘substantive nature conservation value’ and are important for nature and people alike. These sites cover 5% of land in Britain and have been shown to have positive effects on our quality of life, health, wellbeing and education.
Along with Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves, Local Wildlife Sites represent the best known semi-natural wildlife habitats in the country and are home to many of our rarest, threatened and protected species. In Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, there are 432 Local Wildlife Sites covering an area of over 5800 hectares.
Many of these Local Wildlife Sites represent habitats which are becoming increasingly rare, so these sites act as a refuge for species or provide stepping stones or corridors between nationally designated wildlife sites.
In 2014 The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts carried out a review of Local Wildlife Sites in England and found that over 11% of Local Wildlife Sites had been lost or damaged in recent years. Therefore it is especially important that we monitor and protect the sites we have in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
We are currently reviewing Biological Notification Sites and, in collaboration with the Natural Environment Partnership working towards assessing if the current Biological Notification Sites are of reasonable quality and where possible, designate more local wildlife sites, adhering to strict nationally adopted guidelines using structured survey methodology. We are also working to resurvey the county’s Local Wildlife Sites to assess their condition and species presence.
We aim to collect data about these sites so that they have more weight in the planning process. With better data we can also give more detailed advice to landowners who work with us to conserve these sites and the public who wish to visit these sites.