avocet chicks swimming at Seaton Wetlands
Image credit: Sue Smith

The most comprehensive report on wildlife in the UK, the State of Nature, warns that one in six species are facing the threat of extinction in Great Britain. The report shows that the species studied have, on average, declined by 19% in the UK since monitoring began in 1970. It also shows that most of the important habitats for nature in the UK are in poor condition but restoration projects, like those taking place in East Devon, have clear benefits for nature, people and responding to climate change.

To protect and improve nature locally, East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Cabinet recently agreed a Nature Recovery Declaration and a Nature Recovery Strategy will follow next year.  It will build on the EDDC’s concerted conservation work and strict protection already taking place, which means wildlife such as bats and wild birds are thriving locally and important habitats are being restored and enhanced.

Cllr Geoff Jung, Portfolio Holder for Coast, Country and Environment, said:

EDDC is committed to halting nature’s decline in East Devon with our Nature Recovery plans.

The State of Nature report provides evidence and a timely reminder about the collective importance of our work, from managing local nature reserves to ensuring that nature recovery and biodiversity are embedded in our decision-making processes.

New legal responsibilities through the Environment Act and the Environmental Improvement Plan, such as mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), as well as targets to reduce species at risk of extinction, will further help us with nature recovery. The current review of our Local Plan is seeking to set an ambitious target of 20% BNG from development proposals.

From January 2024, developers in England will be legally required to deliver 10% BNG which means by law they must deliver a net positive for the local environment, for example by creating new habitats and green spaces.

Will Dommett, EDDC’s District Ecologist, said:

We have a diverse range of protected sites, habitats and species in East Devon and we need to make sure these important features are maintained and enhanced for future generations.

By adopting the Nature Recovery Plan, together with new legal duties, we can work towards reversing the decline in wildlife and towards its expansion, including through providing guidance, planning policy and collaborative working. 

James Chubb, EDDC’s Countryside Manager, said:

In contrast to the national picture, we have enjoyed a really positive year for biodiversity on our Local Nature Reserves. A series of bat surveys confirmed that all 16 of the species identified as present in the district are using one or more of the Local Nature Reserves. Water voles, considered to endangered, are expanding their territories on Seaton Wetlands and are active near the reserve. This summer we welcomed the first ever breeding pair of avocet recorded in Devon to Seaton Wetlands, with all three chicks successfully fledging at the end of the summer.

The presence of wildlife is a boost for the local economy. For example, Seaton Wetlands is on track to host 100,000 visitors in 2023 for the first time in its history.