The Natural Environment White Paper published by the government in 2011 and the conservation strategy for England, Biodiversity 2020, both highlight the importance of establishing coherent ecological networks to benefit wildlife and people, and the consequent need to consider conservation at a large or ‘landscape’ scale. A strong policy direction and aspiration has therefore been established, strongly evident in the new Nature Improvement Areas established in 2012. However, more needs to be done to identify the best ways to approach large-scale conservation, and to put in place appropriate measures to support it in the long term. This is particularly important as large-scale ecological restoration is a long-term process, requiring long-term planning, management and investment. We need to learn from both the scientific evidence and the extensive practical experience that has been built up in recent years.
To address this, a conference was held in 2013 by Natural England, in partnership with RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation and the National Trust. This was intended to provide an opportunity to review lessons learned and help establish priorities for developing and improving our approaches. The conference had the title ‘working together to make space for nature’.