Chris Packham unveils raft of proposals to save Britain’s declining wildlife

Presenter Chris Packham is unveiling ‘A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife (Penny Dixie/PA) Credit: Press Association Images

All primary schools should be “twinned” with a farm to help children understand how food is produced, under proposals to help nature unveiled by Chris Packham.

Primary school classes should also name and own significant urban trees, more than 180,000 miles of hedgerows lost since 1960 should be replanted and there should be wildlife ponds in every industrial estate and public park, according to the plans.

The proposals are part of a manifesto for wildlife launched by the TV presenter and naturalist to reverse what he describes as an “ecological apocalypse”, with more than half of British species suffering declines in recent decades.

The manifesto, which Packham says is a “first draft to ignite public interest”, is unveiled ahead of the People’s Walk for Wildlife in central London on Saturday, which he has organised.

It includes more controversial suggestions including banning driven grouse shooting, outlawing the use of lead ammunition and snares, making it illegal to dredge for scallops and stopping Scottish seal culling.

There are also proposals to “rewild” a tenth of the UK’s upland areas, reintroduce species such as beaver and lynx, and for 10% of every farm to be managed for wildlife with wildflowers and restored farm ponds and wetlands.

Packham has called for dog free zones in nature reserves Credit: Chris Ison/PA

Packham also wants to see a tax on pesticides, a move recently announced by Denmark, and a target to reduce the use of such chemicals by 50% by 2022, following the lead of France and Denmark which have set reduction targets.

Elsewhere among the 200 suggestions for action to protect nature are for all new-build homes to have nest boxes for swifts, swallows and starlings, with incentives for retrofitting them on older properties, and for hedgehog holes to be compulsory on new fencing.

There are also proposals for nationalising water companies and managing their land for benefits including cheaper bills, flood reduction and wildlife.

And there should be better competition regulation and farmers should be paid a fair price for the food they produce in return for the production being more sustainable, it suggests.

The manifesto also urges cat owners to keep pets in at night to stop them killing wild birds, and calls for it to be mandatory that all free-roaming cats have collars with bells.

Nature reserves should be dog-free and dog-walking hotspots should be created away from wildlife-rich areas, with facilities for dogs and owners.

In the introduction to the manifesto, which has had contributions from various experts and campaigners, Packham says: “It’s time to wake up.

“We are presiding over an ecological apocalypse and precipitating a mass extinction in our own backyard.

“But – vitally – it is not too late. There is hope we can hold to, and there is action we can take.”

More wild flowers and ponds have been urged Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

He calls for immediate Government action to halt the destruction of wildlife, arguing many measures can be taken that will cost taxpayers nothing and will hugely benefit Britain’s wildlife.

And he said: “This is a people’s manifesto – it’s not devised by the Government, and we don’t have to wait for them to do something. We can do it ourselves.

“I want this manifesto to be a first draft to ignite public interest, so that people feel empowered to stand up and say ‘I’ve got ideas as well, and they work.’

“We know how to solve the problems, we just need to make it happen. If this manifesto can be a catalyst, I’d be delighted.”

The People’s Walk for Wildlife takes place from 10am in Hyde Park on Saturday September 22, with the walk at 1pm.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “I welcome this important contribution to the debate around our environment.

“Chris Packham and his colleagues have successfully motivated the public to get behind many of these issues and I would like to thank everyone involved. I shall consider the BioBlitz report in depth.

“Education plays a crucial part in developing our youngsters. Through our schools we can develop the next generation of environmentally aware citizens and ensure wildlife and the natural world is protected.”