‘England is not as green or pleasant as it should be’: MP pushes for more wildbelt protections

A proposal for new wildbelt protections to be added to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was not taken forward as it passed the report stage in the House of Commons on Tuesday, but a minister has confirmed the issue will be addressed.

The amendment, which was proposed by Conservative MP David Simmonds, would have seen a requirement for local planning authorities to keep a register of wildbelt land; for wildbelts to be recognised in local plans, and to ensure wildbelt land is protected by planning measures that restrict development but allow farming and other land uses that promote the recovery nature

According to the Wildlife Trust, who first coined the term in a 2021 report, wildbelt land is a  designation to protect new land that is recovering.

Simmonds’ amendment wasn’t pushed to a vote, but in housing minister Lucy Frazer’s closing remarks she said he was “right to highlight the importance of wildbelts”.

Frazer said that under the Environment Act, responsible authorities are already required to map sites that could be of particular importance for nature’s recovery.

She added “We will continue to look at that issue as we enable the preparation of local nature recovery strategies, which will begin across England soon.”

Simmonds, who is part of the independent Conservative Environment Network (CEN) forum, told ENDS he was glad to hear that the government is considering the importance of wildbelts, despite the amendment not going forward. 

He added that the reason he introduced the amendment was because: “England is not as green or pleasant as it should be. 

“With the UN meeting in Montreal to attempt to halt the global decline of nature, we need to look at new ways at home to revive our once-thriving countryside.”

The amendments proposed by other CEN MPs such as one for all new homes built from April 2025 to have rooftop solar panels, a proposal for national parks to recover biodiversity and widen access to nature, and an amendment to enable local authorities to end damaging peat extraction licences without paying compensation were also not taken forward.

The Levelling Up Bill has now moved to its third reading, which will be the final chance for the Commons to debate its contents.