The government is failing to monitor almost half of England’s protected biodiversity sites, reports Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative unit.
Of the 4,126 sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) currently in existence, 47% have not been monitored in the last six years, as is required by national monitoring guidelines.
The data emerged in response to a parliamentary question by the co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas.
Eight months ago Theresa May launched the government’s 25-year environment plan, which promised to “not only conserve but enhance” protected areas.
Natural England, the government agency responsible for monitoring these areas, has seen its budget almost halved from what it was a decade ago.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “The government must end this shameful neglect of England’s most important nature sites. Funding cuts must be reversed and a new environmental watchdog with proper enforcement and investigation powers established, to avoid systematic failures like this after Brexit.”
SSSIs afford legal protection to the UK’s most significant areas for wildlife, plants, geological and physical features, including many areas within national parks and nature reserves.
Unearthed found that many parts of the Pennines, Exmoor and some of the best-loved parts of the Lake District have not been monitored in eight to ten years, despite some being reported as being in unfavourable conditions at the time. This includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, which was last assessed in 2010.
Parts of SSSIs within the South Downs around Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters have not been monitored in ten years, while those inside Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula and St Michael’s Mount were last monitored in 2011.
More than one in ten of the UK’s wildlife species is threatened with extinction, making it “among the most nature depleted countries in the world”, according to a major report published in 2016.
Contact Greenpeace UK news team on 020 7865 8255 and firstname.lastname@example.org