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Plea to ‘save Hampshire’s wildlife’ as stats reveal decline in birds and garden creatures

A nightingale

Published in the Portsmouth News on the 17th December 2018

Story by Byron Melton

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are urging councils to promote the enhancement of their biodiversity in future planning policy in a bid to ‘save Hampshire’s wildlife’.

Pleas from Havant Friends of the Earth and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust come as statistics lay bare the rate at which species of birds have declined across the county.

A ringed plover. Picture: Richard Dunn

In 1988, there was an estimated 260 to 360 breeding pairs of nightingales in Hampshire.

But by 2012 that figure had slashed to somewhere close to 66, because of habitat pressures from population growth, development and climate change.

Now, senior ornithologist Trevor Codlin estimates that number to be in the region of just 14 – excluding the Isle of Wight – with six pairs in one place.

His colleague Dr David Rumble is the assistant director of policy and partnerships at the trust and recently gave a talk in Havant on the borough’s biodiversity.

A male house sparrow

Ahead of the release of Havant Borough Council’s Local Plan in the new year, he says planners must seek to deliver ecological gain with their developments – reinforced by council policy.

‘We are in danger of being nature deprived – but with imagination there is much we can do based on modern urban wildlife design,’ he said. 

‘It’s unacceptable not give due regard to the environmental losses faced in our area, where there are lots of sites which are vulnerable.’

A short-legged wading bird found on beaches, the ringed plover has not fared well in Hampshire either. 

A hedgehog

Around 170 to 260 breeding pairs called Hampshire home in 1991, but as of last year that number stooped to between 25 and 60.

The house sparrow is also red-listed, which means it is of the ‘highest conservation concern’.

Ray Cobbett, chairman of Havant Friends of the Earth, said: ‘David’s message weeks before the new Local Plan is revealed is timely and immensely important to a small borough facing 18 years of continuing house development on mostly green field sites.’

A survey carried out by Mr Cobbett’s group with 663 responses from across East Hampshire found nearly 450 residents had even seen a ‘significant loss’ in hedgehogs in their garden or local area. 

Meanwhile, more than 300 reported a drastic lull in the presence of butterflies and bees.

A bee

‘It is telling that this is not just something that experts are seeing – you can see this in your own back garden with your own eyes,’ Mr Cobbett said.

‘Some developers are taking steps to design a site which can welcome nature as well as us – it does not need to be one or the other.

‘But there remains a vital need that must be satisfied.’

In July, a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework stated future developments should ‘enhance’ an environment, not degrade it.

It also encouraged ‘protecting and enhancing valued landscapes, sites of biodiversity or geological value and soils’. 

A small tortoiseshell butterfly

Mr Cobbett said local environmentalists were ‘extremely keen’ to see the updated equivalent of Havant Borough Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan, which was published in 2011. 

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