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The importance of conserving and enhancing biodiversity

The Cotswolds AONB Management Plan has a policy to conserve and enhance biodiversity (CE7), focusing on a list of priority habitats and species. That list includes ‘Wood pasture, parkland and veteran trees’ which covers old orchards. There is also a policy on the historic environment and cultural heritage (CE6) which is also relevant to Wolds End Orchard.

Policy CE7:  Biodiversity

1. Biodiversity in the Cotswolds AONB should be conserved and enhanced by establishing a coherent and resilient ecological network across the Cotswolds AONB and in its setting, focussing on the priority species and habitats listed in Appendix 8. This should be achieved by implementing the following principles:

  • Better: Existing wildlife sites should be protected, in line with national policy and guidance, and be brought into good condition through effective and appropriate management.

  • Bigger: The size of existing wildlife sites should be increased.

  • More: More wildlife sites should be created.

  • Joined: Connectivity between wildlife sites should be improved by creating new wildlife corridors and ‘stepping stone’ sites and the provision of green infrastructure. The pressure on wildlife should be reduced by improving the wider environment, including the provision of less intensively managed ‘buffer zones’ around wildlife sites.

2. Proposals that are likely to impact on the biodiversity of the Cotswolds AONB should provide a significant net-gain in biodiversity, particularly with regard to the species and habitats listed in Appendix 8. 3. Biodiversity – in particular, the priority species and habitats listed in Appendix 8 – should be a key component of future agri-environment, land management and rural development support mechanisms in the Cotswolds AONB.

Despite investment for many years in conserving and enhancing biodiversity, habitats and species have continued to decline, notably on ancient, semi-natural habitats. Many of the AONB’s most important habitats rely on traditional practices that are no longer economically viable. Extensive grazing of species-rich grasslands has reduced due to a downturn in the livestock industry and diseases such as tuberculosis. Woodland management has also declined as imported wood products have become cheaper.

The reduction in size and fragmentation of habitats has led to populations of species becoming more vulnerable to population decline or extinction. Climate change is likely to result in changes to the areas that are climatically suited to host particular species. The fragmentation of habitats will make it more difficult for species to move to these new climatically suitable areas. Climate change is also likely to change the timing of seasonal events, leading to a loss of synchrony between species and the resources that they depend on, notably for food and production. Changes in farming and forestry practices could also affect some species. Policy CE7 should help to provide an environment that enables species and habitats to better adapt to climate change. Additional measures relating to climate change are provided in Policies CE7 and CE8. Lack of continuity of funding and resources, bureaucracy, diseases in specific species and the sheer scale of the task at hand are some of the additional factors leading to continued declines in biodiversity. Development and recreational pressures have also played a role in this decline. In the wider landscape, the conservation and enhancement of habitats and species is largely reliant on payments from agri-environment schemes. However, the UK’s exit from the EU could see fundamental changes to these support mechanisms and to the legislative requirements relating to biodiversity. These changes pose significant risks to the future conservation and enhancement of biodiversity but they also provide significant opportunities.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework provide some positive biodiversity-related measures which should help to address declines in biodiversity. These measures include delivering net-gains in biodiversity, increasing the level of protection afforded to irreplaceable habitat such as ancient woodland, creating more green infrastructure and identifying, mapping, conserving and enhancing ecological networks.

Although Policy CE7 focuses on the AONB and its setting, consideration will also need to be given to ecological networks in the wider environment, for example, river corridor ecological networks where the rivers start in the AONB but extend well beyond its boundaries.

Appendix 8: Priority Habitats and Species:

This list of priority habitats and species for the Cotswolds AONB is adapted from Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, which lists the habitats and species that are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England. The habitats and species listed below are considered to be: (i) characteristic of the Cotswolds; and/ or (ii) those for which the Cotswolds AONB is considered to a stronghold of those particular habitats or species.

There are other priority habitats and species within the AONB, which merit an appropriate level of protection, but which do not meet the two criteria outlined above. Habitats with an asterisk (*) are not on the NERC Act list but have been identified, by the Board and relevant stakeholders, as priorities for the Cotswolds AONB.


• Lowland mixed deciduous woodland

• Lowland beech and yew woodland

• Wood pasture, parkland and veteran trees

• Lowland calcareous grasslands

• Flushes, streams and rivers

• Arable field margins important for birds and plant species

• Hedgerows

• Common box woodland

• Areas important for bats (‘batscapes’)*

 • H7720 petrifying springs with tufa formation (Crataneurion)*


• Cotswold pennycress • Bats • Dormouse • Water vole • Brown hare • Limestone grassland butterflies • Marsh fritillary • Violet click beetle • White clawed crayfish • Native brown trout • Bath asparagus* • Common box* • Rockrose pot beetle • Rugged oil beetle • Ancient woodland ground flora.

Policy CE6: Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage:

1. The historic environment and cultural heritage of the Cotswolds AONB, both designated and un-

designated 25, should be conserved and enhanced through effective management.

2. Designated historic environment sites, such as Scheduled Monuments and listed buildings, should be protected, in line with national policy and guidance.

3. Proposals that are likely to impact on the historic and cultural heritage of the Cotswolds AONB should have regard to these features and seek to conserve and enhance them. This should include respecting historical features, buildings, sites, layout and context, including the relationship between the existing feature or settlement and the landscape.

4. Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage should be a key component of future agri-environment, land management and rural development support mechanisms in the Cotswolds AONB.

Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage. ‘Undesignated’ covers the full spectrum of undesignated assets related to the historic environment and cultural heritage, for example, ranging from archaeological sites to sites associated with the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The historic environment is a finite resource and is continuing to decline and be lost due to development, changes in land management and a lack of understanding and management, particularly with regard to the wider historic landscape and the less visible and undesignated sites which have no protection. The need to understand and promote the connectivity of historic sites and their settings as part of the wider landscape character is vital in order to effectively conserve and manage the historic environment and Historic Landscape Character.

Source: extracts from

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