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Letter to the Prime Minister from the West Country

Last modified: 25 June 2013

Brown hare in green grass

Image: Chris Gomersall

The following letter, signed by over 100 conservationists, business leaders, landowners, celebrities and academics from the West Country was sent to the Prime Minister by South West Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB on 24 June 2013

Dear Prime Minister

Nature in the South West – we trade on it and it’s in trouble.

On May 22nd, Sir David Attenborough launched a report on the State of Nature in the UK on behalf of a wide coalition of environmental organisations.  The report indicates that a shocking number of the plants and animals assessed are in serious decline. The South West doesn’t escape this crisis and here in a region that so much trades on the relative quality of our natural environment this is especially bad news for our economy, our communities and our sense of place. 

In the South West we know that the wellbeing and prosperity of people and nature are intimately linked. We fear though, the impression has been created that the political response to environmental challenges must await an economic recovery, but in a region where the environment underpins so much, nothing could be further from the truth.

We ask that you commit to the natural environment in an urgent and powerful way

The State of Nature report is a wake-up call for all of us that we simply can’t afford to ignore. Our use of resources does not have to be unsustainable and the way we protect nature can and must be far more ambitious.

All parts of society have a role to play, but politicians have to provide leadership and make significant pro-nature decisions in Government. We therefore challenge you to make a clear and public commitment to address the serious declines in species and habitats revealed in the State of Nature report. We ask that you commit to the natural environment in an urgent and powerful way – by strengthening existing and innovative environmental funding streams and critically, by ensuring that investment in the environment is properly included in all government spending plans (including business, health and education), in light of the benefits that nature brings to these sectors. 

We can give you clear actions for a step change in the way you approach nature in Government, here’s just three:

1. In this most maritime region of England, accelerate full and proper marine area protection as recommended by a region-wide consultation process in order to restore the marine environment and rebuild our fishing industry.

2. Ensure that ‘High Nature Value' farming is guaranteed a brighter future from the 2014+ Rural Development Plan that Government will design and implement.

3. Ensure that Government growth programmes fully factor in a restorative approach to nature in solving our economic problems, capturing the multiple benefits of so called ‘green-growth’. We must invest in our ‘natural capital’ by giving clear guidance to Local Enterprise Partnerships as they take forward local spending of taxpayers' money and EU Growth funds. 

The natural world is vital to the South West’s economic, physical and mental well-being. We look for clear impactful leadership from you in the vital task of restoring it.


Tim Allsop, Isles of Scilly, Chair Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust 

Arabella Amory, Devon, Landowner/farmer

Tom Appleby, Bristol, Marine Law specialist, UWE

Prof Martin Attrill, Devon, Director Marine Institute Plymouth University

Nick Baker, Devon, Naturalist

Thelma Barlowe, Dorset, Actress

Janet Barber, Glos, Former member of Natural England Council

Will Barnard, Somerset, Farmer

Harry Barton, Devon, Chief Executive Devon Wildlife Trust 

Tony Bates, Dorset, President Dorset Wildlife Trust 

Prof Stuart Bearhop, Cornwall, Chair Animal Ecology, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter

Andrew Bell, Devon, Vice Chairman, UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme UK

Dr Jonathan Blount, Cornwall, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter

Dr Thomas Bodey, Cornwall, Associate Research Fellow, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter

Will Bond, Dorset, Environmental Contractor and landowner

Andy Bragg, Devon, Farmer

Simon Brenman, Director of Regional Programmes, South West Wildlife Trusts

Dr Bryan Carroll, Bristol, Director Bristol Zoo Gardens

Mark Carwardine, Bristol, TV and Radio Presenter

Perry Chadwyck-Healey, Wilts, Chair Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Phillip Chandler, Devon, Director, Friends of the Bees

Richard Comont, Cornwall, Research Assistant, Environment & Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

Nigel Costley, Bristol, SW Trade Union Congress, Regional Secretary

Dr Daniel Cox, Cornwall, Associate Research Fellow, Environment & Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

Dr Simon Cripps, Dorset, Chief Executive Dorset Wildlife Trust

Howard Curnow, Cornwall, Chair Cornwall Wildlife Trust 

Rich Daniels, Gloucestershire, Freeminer, Forest of Dean

Jo Davies, MBE, Dorset, Vice Chair Dorset Wildlife Trust

Colette Defoe, Cornwall, Knowledge Exchange Manager for the Environment & Sustainability Institute (ESI), University of Exeter

David Dennis, Dorset, Butterfly Conservation Chair

Mike Dilger, Broadcaster and Naturalist

Trevor Edwards , Cornwall , Chief Executive, Cornwall Wildlife Trust 

Charlie Ellis, Cornwall, PhD Researcher, The University of Exeter and The National Lobster Hatchery

Dr Clare Embling, Cornwall, Associate Research Fellow, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter

Dr Rob Fish, Devon, Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter

Prof Lora Fleming, Cornwall, Director, European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter

Mike Guest, Glos, Chairman, Cotswold Canals Trust 

Sally Glass, Wilts, Regional Manager, South West, Woodland Trust

Ben Goldsmith, Somerset, Environmentalist and Green Investment Financier

Sue Goodfellow, Devon, Chair, Devon Local Nature Partnership

Prof Marcus Grant, Bristol, WHO, Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments University of the West of England

Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall, Environment Portfolio Holder, Cornwall Council

Sir Peter Harding, Marshal of the Royal Air Force (retired)

Prof Steve Harris, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Avon

Peter Harrison, MBE, World Seabird Expert

Dr Lucy Hawkes, Cornwall, Lecturer, University of Exeter

Rebecca Hosking, Devon, Farmer

Alex Huke, Cornwall, Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager, Environment & Sustainability Institute (ESI), University of Exeter

Dr Simon Ingram, Devon, Lecturer, Marine Conservation, Plymouth University

Stanley Johnson, Devon, Author

Rosamund Kidman Cox, Avon, Chair, Avon Wildlife Trust 

Simon King, Somerset, Naturalist and Broadcaster

Satish Kumar, environment activist, Devon

Dr Rob Lambert, Isles of Scilly, Vice-President, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Catherine Le-Grice Mack, Bath, Vice-Chair, Campaign to Protect Rural England, SW

Vaughan Lindsay, Devon, CEO The Dartington Hall Trust, Totnes, Devon

Dr Matt Lobley, Devon, Co-Director, Centre for Rural Policy Research, Dept of Politics, University of Exeter

Chris Loughlin, Devon, CEO, South West Water

Sally Luker, Cornwall, PhD Researcher, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Dr Ilya Maclean, Cornwall, Lecturer, Natural Environment, Environment & Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

Dr Andy McGowan, Devon, Centre Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter 

Dr Peter McGregor, Cornwall, Project Development Officer, Cornwall College Newquay

Prof Malcolm McIntosh, Bath, Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts

Lucy McRobert, Isles of Scilly, Creative Director, A Focus on Nature

Clare Mahdiyone, Glos, Stroud Valleys Project 

Dr Gary Mantle MBE, Wilts, Director, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Sarah Mason, Isles of Scilly, Manager, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust 

Prof Jane Memmott, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Avon

Prof Ian Mercer, President, Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon

Charles Middleton, MD Triodos Bank

Robert Mortlock, Glos, Chief Executive, Glos Wildlife Trust 

Mike Moser, Devon, Chair, Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area (Steering Group) and local landowner

Stephen Moss, Somerset, Author and Naturalist

Simon Nash, Somerset, Chief Executive, Somerset Wildlife Trust 

Phil Norrey, Devon, CEO, Devon County Council

Chris Packham, Naturalist and TV Presenter 

Rosemary Parslow, Isles of Scilly, Naturalist, Author of New Naturalist – Isles of Scilly

Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon, Director of Public Health, Devon

Jan Pentreath, Cornwall, President, Cornwall Wildlife Trust 

Jonathon Porritt , Glos, Founder Director, Forum for the Future

Sally Rangecroft, Cornwall, PhD Researcher, University of Exeter

Tony Richardson, Devon, South West Regional Director, RSPB

Francis Rundall, Glos, Chair, Glos Wildlife Trust 

Dr Jonathan Ryder, Cornwall, Biosciences, University of Exeter

Alistair Sawday, Avon, Founder of Sawday's Special Places To Stay

Keith Shackleton, Artist and Naturalist

Glenn Slade, Cornwall, Director, Green Glass, Cornwall

Tony Soper, Devon, Writer and broadcaster

Thelma Sorensen, OBE, Cornwall, Chairma, Cornwall Business Partnership

Chris Sperring, MBE, Avon, Hawk and Owl Trust

Jeff & Pat Thomas, Cornwall, Farmers

Prof Jeremy Thomas, Professor of Ecology

Eve Tigwell, Somerset, Chair, Somerset Wildlife Trust 

Simon Tonge, Devon, Executive Director, South West Environmental Parks Ltd, Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust

Dale Vince, OBE, Ecotricity Founder and Chair, Forest Green Rovers

Dr Stephen Votier, Devon, Associate Professor, Marine Ecology, University of Plymouth

Bevis Watts, Avon, Chief Executive, Avon Wildlife Trust 

Martin Warren, Dorset, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation

Prof Nigel Webb, Dorset, Chair, Dorset Wildlife Trust 

Andrew Whitehouse, Devon, South West Manager, Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust

Robert Wilson, Cornwall, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology, University of Exeter

Prof Michael Winter, OBE, Devon, Co-Director, Centre for Rural Policy University of Exeter Research Director of Food Security and Land Research Alliance


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