Call for Nature Sites Guide and FAQs
- What is the Call for Nature Sites?
The Authority is inviting interested landowners, land managers, communities, businesses, and conservation groups to put forward possible sites where new wildlife habitat could be created, contributing to nature recovery in the South Downs National Park.
We are looking to identify potential projects, ranging from well-developed project ideas, through to expressions of interest in putting forward a site to explore further.
The sites must not be currently managed for nature.
Proposals of any size or scale will be considered and opportunities could include, for example, creating wildflower meadows, new hedgerows, more natural rivers, planting trees, creating heathland or installing dewponds.
Village greens, road verges may also have potential.
The Call for Nature Sites is a pilot approach that we are testing to help deliver our nature recovery ambitions as set out in our ReNature Campaign .
It is based upon the concept of the ‘call for sites’ approach used in planning but adapted to help identify potential sites for nature recovery projects.
The SDNPA would like to work with interested landowners and land managers to support developing these projects further, providing specialist advice and help in matching with appropriate funding mechanisms.
This Call for Nature Sites will run between 4 November and midnight on 17 January 2022.
Set out below is an overview of the headline steps of the early stages of this Call for Nature Sites Pilot. Timings and details of the process may evolve and will depend on the number and nature of sites that come forward in the pilot.
- How is a site put forward?
Landowners and land managers, which includes farmers, estates, businesses, publicly-owned land and communities, are invited to submit an Expression of Interest form (Word document) providing details of their site, including its current uses, a map and any ideas and expectations for the site.
There is no formal commitment in submitting a form. This Call for Nature Sites process is iterative and at this early stage is about identifying the potential opportunities that are available.
More information about the possible funding mechanisms and what sort of projects they may be suitable for is set out later in this Guide and FAQs.
Or by post to the South Downs Centre, North Street, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9DH
- What will be the National Park Authority’s role?
The SDNPA would like to work with interested landowners and land managers to identify and develop nature recovery projects by providing two main areas of support:
- Our specialist guidance to develop projects
- Be a ‘matchmaker’ to connect projects with one or more appropriate funding opportunities available.
The SDNPA is not buying land for nature recovery projects.
- What type of land could be considered?
It could be urban, semi-urban or rural land in the South Downs National Park where managing for nature/biodiversity is not the current primary objective of the land.
Over 70 per cent of the National Park is farmland, so we would envisage a number of expressions of interest may come from farmers.
Proposals of any size or scale will be considered and could include, for example, creating wildflower meadows, heathland, installing dewponds.
It could include land that is significant in joining up the landscape and strengthening the ecosystem, such as hedgerows, verges, field margins and watercourses, as well as recreation and amenity spaces.
Ultimately, we are looking for bigger, better and more joined-up habitat for wildlife.
A site being “renatured” would mean that managing for biodiversity becomes the primary objective of that land.
- What type of land won’t be considered?
There are certain sites that are excluded, including:
- Private gardens.
- Land within internationally, nationally or locally protected sites that are already protected for wildlife value (unless part of a wider landscape scape project).
- Sites allocated in Local Plan/Neighbourhood Development Plan for housing or employment use
Existing and new agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship Scheme have rules around compliance and double funding. These would need to be considered and may preclude such land.
- How will expressions of interest be evaluated?
Each submitted site will be evaluated to determine how the SDNPA may be able to advise on the potential for the site to contribute to nature recovery. Examples of considerations include:
- Does the site meet the initial criteria for evaluation (i.e. is it an excluded site)?
- Suitability of the site contribute to nature recovery to support the principles of bigger, better and more joined up nature. For example will the site buffer or expand existing habitat or create new habitat that is characteristic of the area, does it provide habitat connectivity opportunity (e.g. hedgerows, road verges and field margins), is it within an area identified as important for wildlife (e.g. Biodiversity Opportunity Areas, People & Nature Network etc.).
- The timing for which the site is available.
- Are the opportunities for the site achievable, for example what are the suitable funding mechanisms that are available or emerging that we may be able to match to the project.
- What are the next steps once suitable sites have been identified?
Once a list of sites and projects have been identified it will be necessary to develop these with the landowners/managers and other parties.
This is a long-term process, so some projects may take some time before reaching implementation stage.
Each project will be different and have its own needs and outcomes.
This is the first pilot round of a Call for Nature Sites and there are likely to be future rounds.
This is a first for the South Downs National Park, so we fully expect the programme to adapt and evolve over time.
- How will any change of use land be delivered?
There are a number of delivery and funding mechanisms available or emerging for landowners/land managers for suitable projects, supported by the expertise of planners and countryside teams at the Authority including:
- Is there any funding available to change the use of land?
There are immediate opportunities available through the South Downs National Park Trust, which will be supporting communities in order to change land use.
There is also pilot funding available for those looking to change land use by providing ecosystem services and we will also signpost interested parties to established grant schemes, such as Forestry Commission grants.
Funding is a fast-moving area and over the coming years we expect more funding routes will open up.
The emerging Environment Bill, soon to be Environment Act, proposes some of the important mechanisms that will support delivery of nature recovery projects once enacted.
Funding can never be guaranteed, but submitting a potential site is the best chance to secure funding.