As the country remains in the grip of devastating floods and water supply problems, Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) is urging a re-think of the government’s housing proposals contained within a Green Paper, published on Monday 23 July.
The draft Housing Green Paper indicates the government will continue to build houses on flood plains as long as proper flood defences are in place. SWT argues that environmental limits should be respected when proposing the location of future housing. Our current crisis stems from years of building on flood plains, our over-reliance on man-made flood defences, and the removal of wetlands which can act as natural sponges, soaking up water and slowing it down in times of flooding.
“The last thing that river valleys such as the Arun, the Ouse and the Adur need is more built development” says Dr Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of SWT. “This summer’s catastrophic floods, and the flooding of Lewes in 2000, show only too brutally what we can expect in a changing climate. New developments have to allow space for water - building impermeable new landscapes is not an option for the future.”
SWT believes the Government must now react by creating policies, through its housing green paper, which encourage developers and local planning authorities to build truly sustainable housing. It should avoid floodplains and protect and enhance wildlife habitats, such as wetlands, on a landscape scale. A three-pronged approach is needed; encompassing building homes in the right places and in the right way; restoring and creating healthy ecosystems and managing our river headwaters better to slow down run-off into rivers and streams. By working with nature, rather than against it, we will help society and species adapt to a changing climate, including increased rainfall.
The Wildlife Trust’s report - A Living Landscape - demonstrates how we are working at a landscape scale to prepare people and wildlife for climate change. The report has a four-point plan which calls for urgent Government action in addressing climate change and restoring the UK’s battered ecosystems across our towns and countryside.
To download the report - A Living Landscape - log on to www.wildlifetrusts.org and click on
the publications page.