7th August 2018

Many people are drawn to the South West for the opportunities it offers to take part in outdoor activities here, in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. However, concerns exist that with continued flooding and coastal erosion, an increase in waste and recycling, and the destruction of forests and hedges, we are at risk of causing permanent damage to our beautiful natural environment.

It is vital that we protect both the UK’s vibrant ecosystem and the natural environment worldwide. Environmental and economic progress depend on each other. The Government is committed to being the UK’s greenest ever, and has established a 25-year Plan to Improve the Environment to help achieve this goal.

I spoke about Marine Conservation Zones in a recent column, as there are 14 in and around the South West coast, with four of those covering areas of Torridge and West Devon – Tamar Estuary, Lundy, Hartland to Tintagel and Bideford to Foreland Point. Not only will these zones help fulfil the Government’s ambitious pledge to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protection for our diverse marine wildlife, they will also protect 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating sea creatures. 

In addition, the River Torridge is one of 12 Nature Improvement Zones across England, which aim to create joined up, resilient ecological networks. The River Torridge catchment area hosts 35% of the UK’s remaining Culm grassland, 120 scheduled plants and animals, and important populations of two of Europe’s most threatened species – the marsh fritillary butterfly and the freshwater pearl mussel.

This summer also sees the continuation of the Highways England grassland planting scheme, which has seen a total of 10 hectares of new grassland planted along the A30 and A38 in Devon and Cornwall, to support pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies, as well as invertebrates, reptiles and small mammals.

Instead of just halting or slowing environmental deterioration, our overall aim should be, in the new Agriculture Bill and elsewhere, to raise our ambitions, restoring nature and reversing decline. We can, and I believe we must, be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.