NIA Annual Forum

Representatives from the Greater Thames Marshes joined NIAs from across England in celebrating achievements to date at the Annual Nature Improvement Area Forum.

Chaired by Professor John Lawton and including speeches from Lord de Mauley (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for natural environment and science) and Andrew Sells (Chair, Natural England), we heard more about what the future holds for Nature Improvement Areas, and some highlights of achievements from across England.

At the end of year 2 the NIA partnerships have

  • managed a total of 7,451ha to create or restore priority habitats and 11,342ha to maintain or improve it’s condition – nearly 5% of the total area of NIAs
  • undertaken research and tested approaches to delivering and measuring habitat connectivity, according to the principles of more, bigger, better and joined
  • reported a total of 24,326 days of volunteer time, with volunteers engaged in activities including habitat improvements and species surveys
  • engaged with their local communities, through activities, events, volunteer days, school outreach and encouraging community involvement in decision making.

It was clear that Defra recognises and is proud of the success achieved by the 12 funded NIA partnerships, with Lord de Mauley expressing a wish to see a “proliferation of NIAs” in the future. Unfortunately, in a Q&A session with representatives from Defra, Natural England, Environment Agency and Forestry Commission, there was no commitment to providing further funding for this or any other landscape scale conservation initiative, although support through staff resources and mechanisms such as Water Framework Directive and the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) will be available.

This event was a great opportunity to network with NIA partnerships from across England and share best practise. Much has been achieved in Year 2 of the programme, with considerable momentum built for delivery in the final year of this programme.

Keep an eye out for more information regarding the future of the Greater Thames Marshes NIA – partners are working hard to secure a legacy for the NIA and will be reporting back to the Advisory Group shortly.

Sir John Lawton fronts the national NIA delivery team at the Annual Forum (c) Brian McDonald 2014
Sir John Lawton fronts the national NIA delivery team at the Annual Forum (c) Brian McDonald 2014

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Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area