The Wildlife Trusts have published a report on the status of Local Wildilfe Sites (LoWS) in England in 2017/18. Local Wildlife Sites are part of the country's ecological network and form important links between statutory sites such as SSSI's. They are not legally protected in their own right, although national planning policy requires Local Authorites to give them some level of protection from development. Local Wildlife Sites are often under private ownership, but are usually designated and governed by partnerships between local Wildlife Trusts, Local Authorities and other stakeholders.
There are more than 43, 992 Local Wildlife Sites, covering at least five per cent of England’s land area. During 2017, it was reported that only 1,594 Local Wildlife Sites were monitored (3.6% of England’s total). This is lower than the number of sites monitored in the year preceding the previous two surveys in 2014 and 2011 and is likely to be a result of the decrease in funding for local authorities. At least 146 local authorities are providing no financial support towards Local Wildlife Site systems in their area – an increase by at least 10% since the last LoWS survey in 2014.
Local Wildilfe Sites still face a variety of threats in spite of their protection in the planning system, with lack of management and inappropriate management seen as the biggest threat, followed by developement. In the five years between 2013 and 2017, 843 Sites were lost/partially lost and/or damaged and 353 of these occurred during 2017, although this is likely to be an underestimate as not all counties provided information for the report. Of the 41 LoWs partnerships that gave information, only one reported that they had sufficient resources to ensure the identification, protection and management of Local Wildlife Sites in their area. The main area requiring more resource was surveying and monitoring, highlighting the importance of evidence based site management.
The full report can be downloaded below.