The signatories, which include the heads of all main conservation charities as well as academics, peers and DEFRA non-executive board member Ben Goldsmith, told the minister that housing policy has not caught up with the government’s commitment to create “a connected network of places across England that are richer in wildlife, more resilient to climate change, and provide wider benefits, including carbon capture”.
Government policies are forcing councils to “consider development on sites that will be key to nature networks”, states the letter.
Referring specifically to the planned 3,500 home development that would threaten the Knepp rewilding estate in West Sussex, the signatories said the project would “stop nature in its tracks, preventing the Knepp estate from connecting with St Leonard’s Forest and Ashdown Forest, reducing it to a wildlife island in a sea of housing, allocated by central government”.
“We appreciate the need for more homes to meet housing requirements but urge the government to honour its pledge to build “the right homes in the right places,” they wrote.
Last week, the leader of Horsham District Council also blamed central government housing targets for its decision to allocate land identified by the famed Knepp estate as a vital wildlife corridor for new homes. In a statement sent to ENDS, the council insisted that the new plan remains a draft, and will be subject to public examination this autumn.