Making Even More Space for Nature: guest blog by Sir John Lawton

0820.john LawtonWe're hosting our very first Farmer Clusters Conference on 12th October where you will have the chance to hear first-hand accounts of running a Farmer Cluster and the opportunities it provides. A range of farmers, facilitators and advisors will be speaking at the conference, with Sir John Lawton delivering the keynote address.

In 2010 a committee I chaired (supported by Defra and Natural England) produced a report to Defra entitled Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network. I never imagined that over seven years later the report would still be having an influence.

The lecture will briefly review the history of the report, including one of its key recommendations to establish (by a national competition) 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). One of the successful bids was (uniquely) led by a group of farmers on the Marlborough Downs, working together to make space for nature on their own land. Interestingly, among the other recommendations in the report was the penultimate one that said: “Delivering a more effective ecological network may require refinements to [agri-environment] schemes, such as rewarding farmers who act cooperatively”. The success of the Marlborough Downs NIA and this recommendation appear to have been instrumental in the development of Farm Clusters.

But several other recommendations in the report have not been acted on; if they were we might get away from the word “subsidy” to the much more positive idea of paying farmers to deliver public benefits, directly and indirectly making even more space for nature. The lecture will explore these ideas in more detail, and put them in a national context where making space for nature is happening on many other fronts.

Farmer Clusters Conference - Book your place

The conference is taking place at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 12th October. You can find out more here or book your place now:


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