Government to provide �7.5m for nature zones

A �7.5m fund to transform and connect rural and urban areas for wildlife to live in across the country has been announced by the government in the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years which was unveiled this morning.

The money will be made available for the 12 initial Nature Improvement Areas and they will be chosen as part of a competition.

Professor Sir John Lawton, who wrote a report used as part of the basis for the white paper, will chair the panel to allocate funding.

Also contained in the White Paper is a commitment to 'biodiversity offsetting' – new way for developers to ensure we don't lose wildlife sites and make them better by making and improving other sites.

There will be new local nature partnerships with �1m available this year which will strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations.

The government has said it will work with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore our peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of our ecological network.

Green Areas Designation are to be set up to allow local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.

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The government has also said it will create better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns and provide support for parks, gardens, and tree planting.

They also want to get more children experiencing nature by learning outdoorsby cutting red-tape for outdoor learning.

Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better health

A new environmental volunteering initiative 'Muck in 4 Life' will be set up to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.

The plans are contained in 'The Natural Choice', the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, and are directly linked to the groundbreaking research in the National Ecosystem Assessment published last week that showed the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

The White Paper also acts on the recommendations of Making Space for Nature, a report into the state of England's wildlife sites, led by Professor John Lawton and published in September 2010, which showed that England's wildlife sites are fragmented and not able to respond to the pressures of climate change and other pressures we put on our land.

Environment secretary, Caroline Spelman said: 'The Natural Environment White Paper describes the actions government will take to reconnect people with nature

'The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is Britain's largest protected wetland and home to some of the country's rarest plants and animals. The Broads also provide drinking water to local households worth at least �17 million a year, as well as water for farming and for industrial use. The Broads' exceptional beauty and the recreational opportunities it provides bring millions of visitors to the region, generating some �320 million a year for the local economy.

'Protecting the Broads and other habitats is protecting nature, and our own health and well-being. It's also protecting local businesses, and the economy of the whole region. As well as having a place in our hearts, nature is the backbone of our economy. '

'But it's not just the Broads. Trees clean the air, store carbon and reduce the risk of flooding. It's been calculated that the benefits and services provided by the East of England's woodlands are worth more than one billion pounds per year. Coastal and floodplain habitats along the East Coast provide flood control and storm buffering services worth over �240 million.'

FOR FULL ANALYSIS AND REACTION SEE TOMORROW'S EDP.

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