The Cambridge Nature Network is a local response to the global biodiversity crisis, where the UK is one of the most nature impoverished countries on the planet and Cambridgeshire one of the most nature depleted counties in the UK. It sets out how Cambridge can make its contribution to the ambition of doubling nature across Cambridgeshire, with a vision for Cambridge to have significant areas of downland, fens, meadows and woodlands where nature can recover and thrive.
Set out in a new report (see below), prepared by the Wildlife Trust and Cambridge Past Present and Future, it highlights the best opportunities to create new habitats and large-scale natural green spaces in five priority landscape areas around and through the city. The report has been funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and supported by the Young Advisory Committee of Cambridge Ahead.
The Nature Network is of sufficient scale to allow the process of nature recovery and it consists of parks, nature reserves and farm habitats linked by nature-friendly farmland, towns and villages. Based around remaining fragments of high-quality wildlife habitats, opportunities for enlarging and linking these have been identified by environmental charities, farmers and other landowners.
The means of funding a Nature Network have also been identified: as well as traditional sources of charitable fundraising, new funds will come from government payments to farmers and landowners, income from visitors (eg from cafes) and new biodiversity net gain funding from developments. More than a series of maps, it's about a new way of working collaboratively across organisations, with landowners, to contribute towards nature’s recovery.
Based on the report conservation charities and councils are exploring collaborative ways of working; farmers are interested in nature friendly farmer clusters, to take action. Institutional landowners are reviewing how to ensure best value is maintained in landholdings, while tackling climate and biodiversity crises.
Martin Baker, BCN's Cambridgeshire Conservation Manager, says: “I am truly excited about the Cambridge Nature Network, it establishes a vision for restoring significant wildlife areas around Cambridge, and sets the framework within which Cambridge can grow sustainably. The hard work starts now with conservation charities, landowners, councils, businesses and local people working together to make it happen.”
James Littlewood, Chief Executive, Cambridge Past, Present & Future, says: “In the face of global problems such as the loss of nature, our actions can sometimes seem meaningless unless they are part of a collective effort. The Cambridge Nature Network gives us a long-term vision that we can all work towards in our own ways at our own pace. If we all do our bit, then collectively we will make a difference. The Network will need the support of local authorities, parish councils, government agencies, business, landowners, university colleges, charities and all the people who live and work here. The discussions that we have had so far have been really positive, people recognise that nature is in trouble and they want to help.”
Jane Paterson-Todd, CEO, Cambridge Ahead, says: “Nature must be prioritised as we plan for Cambridge’s future, for the benefit of the environment as well as the quality of life of our residents. It is an issue that transcends so much of our work. I am particularly delighted that Cambridge Ahead’s Young Advisory Committee, has helped to shape the vision and plans for the Cambridge Nature Network.”
Chair of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, Cllr Pippa Heylings, says: “We’re only too pleased to show our support for a local nature recovery network. We know that the days when we can take nature for granted are long gone. That’s why in South Cambridgeshire we are determined, through everything we do, to create a district where nature comes first and thrives as a consequence. Support for the kind of projects which will deliver a nature network is at the heart of our ambitious Doubling Nature Strategy. This isn’t just talk – this is real action to work together to protect and enhance our natural environment. By creating more wildlife-friendly habitats, and enhancing existing ones, we can help tackle the ecological emergency we face on a very local level while giving residents even more green space to enjoy.”
Joel Carré, Head of Environmental Services at Cambridge City Council, says: “As the City Council, we fully recognise the importance of a healthy and biodiverse environment for our city’s future prosperity. In May 2019, we passed an emergency motion, which sets out how we aim to reverse the decline in biodiversity in and around Cambridge. This ambitious aim can only be achieved through collaboration on a landscape scale, so we fully welcome the launch of the Cambridge Nature Network vision and look forward to exploring new and exciting partnership opportunities.”
Dame Fiona Reynolds says: “This report, building on the ambition to double nature in Cambridgeshire, tells us precisely how and where we can do it. It offers for the first time a tangible plan for the revitalisation of nature in the 10km around the city of Cambridge, where the vision for nature recovery is fully integrated with one for the enhancement and creation of natural green spaces for public recreation and refreshment – vital needs, as we have come to understand fully during the Covid-19 crisis.”
Hear Martin Baker and James Littlewood in discussion with Neil Whiteside on Cambridge 105FM