Three years of Nature Improvement Areas

In 2012 the South Downs Way Ahead project, consisting of 28 organisations led by the South Downs National Park Authority, was chosen to trail blaze the Government’s new Nature Improvement Area scheme to protect habitats and the economic and social benefits they bring.

The focus of the project was safeguarding endangered chalk grassland in the South Downs National Park, a habitat vital to the survival of rare and endangered wildlife and relied on by millions of people to provide clean drinking water and valuable green space.

In all 12 Nature Improvement Areas were supported by Defra, Department for Communities and Local Government, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Natural England to operate over three years from 2012 to 2015. The aim was to create more, bigger, better and joined up nature and natural environment sites creating sustainable, resilient and more effective ecological networks for England.

So how have we done?

“What I do find quite extra-ordinary is the way in which all sorts of organisation and individuals have risen to the challenge to deliver ‘their’ NIA, and collaborated in a way that I don’t think anybody could have predicted. The legacy of the NIAs is actually therefore two-fold; more space for nature, and more, bigger better and joined up collaboration between land-owners, local communities, local authorities, utility companies, statutory authorities, conservation charities and so on to deliver benefits of people and wildlife.”

Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS

Read a review of the work of the 12 NIAs over the past three years