Press release

‘Making space for nature’: a review of England's wildlife sites published today

The review looked at our wildlife sites and whether they are capable of responding and adapting to the growing challenges of climate change.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

An independent review of England’s wildlife sites and the connections between them was published today, with recommendations to help achieve a healthy natural environment that will allow our plants and animals to thrive.

Led by Professor Sir John Lawton, the review was set up to look at our wildlife sites and whether they are capable of responding and adapting to the growing challenges of climate change and other demands on our land.

Welcoming the report, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“I am extremely grateful to Professor Sir John Lawton and the other panel members for their hard work in carrying out this valuable review. Sir John Lawton is right to challenge us over what it takes to address the loss of biodiversity but he is also clear this cannot be done by Government alone. Everyone from farmers, wildlife groups, landowners and individuals can play a role in helping to create, manage and improve these areas, so if ever there was a time for the Big Society to protect our natural environment, this is it.

“We must work together to find innovative ways to protect and enhance our wildlife habitats - particularly as we respond to the growing threat of climate change. I will be calling for international action in Nagoya next month as we look to set new targets to tackle the decline in our natural environment, and we will follow this through with the first Natural Environment White Paper for 20 years in the UK.”

Launching the report, Professor Sir John Lawton said:

“There is compelling evidence that England’s collection of wildlife sites are generally too small and too isolated, leading to declines in many of England’s characteristic species. With climate change, the situation is likely to get worse. This is bad news for wildlife but also bad news for us, because the damage to nature also means our natural environment is less able to provide the many services upon which we depend. We need more space for nature. Our 24 recommendations in this report call for action which will benefit wildlife and people. They provide a repair manual to help re-build nature.”

The report makes the following key points for establishing a strong and connected natural environment:

  • That we better protect and manage our designated wildlife sites;
  • That we establish new Ecological Restoration Zones;
  • That we better protect our non-designated wildlife sites;

That Society’s need to maintain water-quality, manage inland flooding, deal with coastal erosion and enhance carbon storage, if thought about creatively, could help deliver a more effective ecological network.

We will not achieve a step-change in nature conservation in England without society accepting it to be necessary, desirable and achievable.

The report makes many recommendations and the Government response will be included in the Natural Environment White Paper to be published next year. Making Space for Nature will also help those that wish to contribute to the White Paper discussion document by the end of October to submit their ideas on what they want to see included.


  • Please see a copy of the final report published today.
  • Please see a copy of the Natural Environment White Paper discussion document.
  • The review was launched in September 2009 to look at England’s collection of wildlife areas and whether they represent a robust natural environment that is capable of responding and adapting to the challenges of climate change and other pressures.
  • Professor Sir John Lawton is a British ecologist and chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.   He was Demonstrator in Ecology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford from 1968, moving to the University of York in 1971.   In October 1999, he was appointed the Chief Executive of Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), retaining an honorary professorship at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine.  Following his retirement from NERC in March 2005, he was appointed Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environment Pollution from 1 April 2005, and was reappointed for a second three year term in 2008.
Published 24 September 2010