Oxfordshire’s Nature Recovery Network

Background

The Nature Recovery Network (NRN) is a major commitment in the UK Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan, intended to improve, expand and connect habitats, to address wildlife’s decline and provide wider environmental benefits for people.  The concept for the NRN is simple. Existing protected sites represent the best areas for wildlife, and they should form the core of any network. But to support nature’s recovery action is required to extend and link these existing sites, both to support wildlife and to recover the range of economic and social benefits that nature provides.

To achieve nature’s recovery, Oxfordshire needs large areas where wildlife is able to flourish and where nature provides the range of ecosystem services we will need in the future.  Our ambition should be to double the amount of land of high value for nature by 2050.

Future local development plans will need to consider in detail how to plan for more nature. Oxfordshire Plan 2050 provides an opportunity to use the draft Nature Recovery Map and recommended associated policies to help plan for nature’s recovery at a county-wide level and to set the framework for future Local Plans.

Oxfordshire already has the foundations for a local NRN. Since 2006, the Conservation Target Areas have been established as the spatial component of Oxfordshire’s strategic approach to biodiversity. They are concentrations of priority habitats and species and include surrounding land that can buffer and link these habitats and provide opportunities to create new sites.

Draft Map of Nature Recovery Network for Oxfordshire

TVERC led a project with Wild Oxfordshire and The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and overseen by Oxfordshire’s Biodiversity Advisory Group and adopted by the Oxfordshire Environment Board (OxEB) in identifying and develop a NRN map for Oxfordshire, engaging with stakeholders from across the environmental community in Oxfordshire.

The NRN consists of 3 zones:

  1. Core zone – the most important sites for biodiversity in Oxfordshire – including all nationally and locally designated sites, nature reserves, priority habitats and ancient woodland.
  2. Recovery zone – comprising the Conservation Target Areas, Important Freshwater Areas and additional areas added to provide better habitat connectivity.
  3. Wider Landscape zone – covering the rest of the county, recognising the important contribution that agricultural and urban landscapes beyond the Recovery zone can make to nature’s recovery

Next Steps

Future local development plans will need to consider in detail how to plan for more nature. Oxfordshire Plan 2050 provides an opportunity to use the draft Nature Recovery Map to help plan for nature’s recovery at a county-wide level and to set the framework for future Local Plans.

Oxfordshire’s Biodiversity Advisory Group has proposed a number of policies for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.  These include:

  • Support for the development of an Oxfordshire Nature Recovery Strategy.
  • Requiring developments in the three nature recovery zones make a positive contribution to nature’s recovery. Oxfordshire’s environmental organisations have a shared ambition to achieve 20% net gain across the county.
  • Giving the Nature Recovery Network significant weight in planning decisions
  • Avoiding major new built development in the Recovery zone.
  • Protecting and enhancing habitats of particular importance for nature and strengthening ecological networks.
  • Focusing on improving nature in the Recovery zone, including the establishment of large nature areas of at least 5000ha in size.
  • Investing more in monitoring the change in nature so that it can be seen if the improvements are actually being achieved and action taken if not.

Find out more about Oxfordshire’s Nature Recovery Network.

Posted: June 22, 2020