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How Natural Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership will help create a richer natural county for all

By Chris Bowden, RSPB area manager, Cambridgeshire & the Fens

A kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
A kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

The Natural Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership is committed to making Cambridgeshire a more attractive, healthy and biodiverse place in which to live, work and play.

RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes at sunset. Picture: Paul Brackley
RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes at sunset. Picture: Paul Brackley

Greater Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing areas in England - with plans to provide tens of thousands of new homes and significant new employment opportunities over the coming decades. To achieve this, major new transport infrastructure and significant additional development will be required.

Trying to meet these needs whilst protecting and enhancing the natural environment, is no easy matter. Yet it is essential if our natural environment is not to suffer further and more species are not to be at risk or endangered through habitat loss. In addition, good access to nature and high quality greenspaces are proven to have multiple benefits: both in attracting people to live in an area and increasing their physical and mental health.

The Natural Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership is a coalition of environmental groups (including the RSPB); developers; local businesses; the Combined Authority; Cambridgeshire County Council and district councils; local charities; and representative groups, such as the National Farmers’ Union. All of us are committed to ensuring that future development in Cambridgeshire is an opportunity to both protect the environment and develop enhanced and sustainable places to live and work.

I am actively involved in Natural Cambridgeshire and recently helped launch our Natural Future vision at events in Cambridge and Peterborough. Our vision for a Natural Future in Cambridgeshire is a 10-point plan, which needs to be followed in order to promote wildlife and increase biodiversity in our county.

A short-eared owl at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. Picture: Paul Brackley
A short-eared owl at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. Picture: Paul Brackley

Part of this vision is a practical and informative toolkit entitled Developing with Nature. This toolkit is for developers and infrastructure providers working on major new housing developments and transport projects. It provides clear advice on how to build nature into developments from site selection to delivery and has been designed in collaboration with market-leading developers working in the region.

Nature can be built into developments in many different ways. Natural vegetation; ponds and lakes providing natural cooling in urban environments; trees helping reduce localised air pollution; high quality greenspaces - all these factors enhance nature and make our living and work environments more attractive and pleasant places to live.

Another initiative I’m involved in is the development of a UNESCO Biosphere in the Cambridgeshire Fens. This internationally recognised designation will highlight the Fens as an area combining amazing biodiversity and wildlife, with high quality sustainable development, employment opportunities, heritage, tourism, leisure activities and commerce. Partner groups, including local and regional government, conservation groups, businesses, academics, farmers and landowners, have been working together to develop this biosphere.

Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has allowed us to start this process and produce a route map to success, but we are now looking for future funding to allow us to complete the process. Hopefully in a few years’ time, the Fens will be the seventh UNESCO Biosphere in the UK attracting more visitors, employers and investment into the region.

RSPB Ouse Washes. Picture: Paul Brackley
RSPB Ouse Washes. Picture: Paul Brackley

So, these are really exciting times for Cambridgeshire and the Fens. By working together, Natural Cambridgeshire offers tremendous opportunities to build a richer natural environment which benefits us all, whilst not discouraging growth in the county.

To find out more about Natural Cambridgeshire take a look at our new website naturalcambridgeshire.org.uk

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