Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent steps her Department has taken to improve wildflower (a) populations and (b) biodiversity in (i) farmland, (ii) woods, (iii) parks, (iv) towns and (v) cities.
In England we have set four legally binding targets for biodiversity including to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 then to reverse declines and restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat, such as wildflower meadows, by 2042. We have set out our plan to deliver on these ambitious targets, along with our other environmental targets, in the revised Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP23) published 31 January 2023.
In May 2022, Natural England launched five nature recovery projects spanning nearly 100,000 hectares, which will see the creation and restoration of wildlife-rich habitats, corridors and stepping-stones. For example, the Cambridge Nature Network aims to develop a network of resilient wildlife rich habitats, including wildflower meadows, covering 9,200 ha in and around the City of Cambridge.
Countryside Stewardship, and its predecessor Environmental Stewardship, offers a number of grants to help improve wildflower populations including restoring wildlife habitats, creating and managing woodlands. We have approximately 40,000 live agreements under our stewardship schemes. Countryside Stewardship offers different options to create and restore wildflower habitats, including options for the management, restoration and creation of species rich grassland. These schemes are complemented by our new Sustainable Farming Incentive, which encourages farming in a more environmentally sustainable way and Landscape Recovery which funds longer-term, larger-scale, bespoke projects to enhance the natural environment.
The Green Infrastructure Framework launched by Natural England in January 2023 will help local planning authorities and developers to create or improve green infrastructure, which can include wildflower planting as well as other natural features.
We are supporting grassland creation and restoration, including through our Green Recovery Challenge Fund. For example, Plantlife’s ‘Meadow Makers’ project, which was awarded over £700,000 in the first round, restored 500 hectares of species-rich grassland at over 100 sites across seven landscapes.
Each year Defra coordinates Bees’ Needs Week, to promote and celebrate action to help pollinators thrive. The Bees’ Needs Champions Awards recognises individuals and groups who have taken positive action, such as restoring wildflower meadows and creating urban pollinator-friendly habitats.