The way Local Wildlife and Geological Sites in England are identified, selected and managed will be made easier through a more transparent and consistent approach promoted by new guidance published by Defra today.
In most areas, local authorities, working with other local partners, have set up systems of non-statutory Local Sites, which make a vital contribution to delivering both UK and Local Biodiversity and Geodiversity Action Plan targets and maintaining local natural character and distinctiveness.
Traditionally, partnerships supporting Local Sites systems have organised themselves in a number of different ways. This guidance draws together best practice while accommodating the strengths of existing systems. The aim is to create a more consistent sense of the value and importance of Local Sites by securing broader awareness and support for their protection.
Welcoming the guidance, Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight said: "Our wildlife, habitats and geological heritage are under ever-increasing pressure, and we need to make sure we are looking at protecting these jewels in our landscape in a consistent, integrated way. Local authorities, interest groups and local communities are absolutely fundamental to this approach, and already make an enormous contribution to Local Sites.
This guidance will support existing partnerships and encourage others to fill gaps to protect our most valuable local wildlife and geological heritage. This will help to raise and consolidate knowledge and understanding of Local Sites, which are so vital to protecting our natural heritage in this country."
Andy Clements, Director of Science, Evidence and Policy at Natural England, said: "Local Sites present people the opportunity to experience the best of England's natural environment close to where they live. Local authorities and conservation bodies have done much to identify and protect these special places. We believe this new national guidance will contribute to more effective protection, management and enjoyment of local places of importance for their wildlife and geological features."
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: "We welcome the guidance and very much support Defra's recommendations for strengthening partnerships on the ground. The guidance and commitment to more 'joined-up thinking' should raise the profile of Local Sites and also go some way to securing their future."