The State of our Environment - it's in our hands

17 September 2013

A new report published today highlights the environmental impact of dramatic population growth across Wiltshire and Swindon. It clearly links how our economy and quality of life depend upon the state of our environment, which in turn is influenced by our lifestyles and activities.

'State of the Environment – Wiltshire and Swindon 2013' brings together evidence on a huge range of issues relating to nature and the services that it provides to us. Published by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on behalf of Link2Nature, it highlights the drivers of change, such as:

  • Within 30 years, from 1991 to 2021, human population is forecast to grow by:
                     - 40% in Swindon Borough 
                     - 28% in Wiltshire
  • 66,000 new homes are planned within 20 years.

This all requires more energy, water, food and building materials, as well as management of the extra waste that will be produced. An alarming example of the impact of this is the need to import water from neighbouring counties in coming years. New pipelines are planned to meet higher demand for water in the future and restore healthy water levels to our rivers.

“Wiltshire and Swindon’s environment is changing quickly. High levels of population growth, the fast pace of development and extreme weather events due to climate change are all taking their toll – both on our wildlife and natural habitats, and on our daily lives. It’s in our own interests to step up the pace in reducing our environmental impact, and make sure that we don’t lose out in the long term,” said Jenny Hawley, author of the report.

The extreme and unusual weather events of recent years are signs of the impacts of climate change and these are likely to be more frequent in future. The drought and floods in 2012 had a devastating effect on food production and farming, wildlife, rivers, our transport system and people’s daily lives across Wiltshire and Swindon.

“Our natural environment provides us with so many goods and services, yet our demands upon it are unsustainable. It’s not a case of having to choose between the economy and the environment, there are lots of ways to build a healthy economy and a healthy environment that support each other and that are resilient to climate change,” said Jenny.

Low-cost, win-win solutions that can easily be delivered in Wiltshire and Swindon include:

  • Creating more and better green spaces in our towns to prevent flooding and attract people to live, work and invest in the area.
  • Building energy-efficient housing to save people money, provide warm, dry homes and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Planting trees to provide vital shade during heatwaves, encourage wildlife and improve air quality.
  • Encouraging walking and cycling to reduce congestion, improve our health and wellbeing, and connect us to nature.
  • Farming in ways that enhance soil quality and encourage wildlife, while producing food and providing employment.

Councillor Toby Sturgis, Wiltshire Council Cabinet member and Board member of Link2Nature, said: “Wiltshire Council is pleased to support this invaluable report – it makes us step back, look at our environment as a whole and think about the impact of our activities. It’s a timely reminder of the immense value of nature’s goods and services.”

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet member and Board member of Link2Nature, said: “The evidence shows how heavily we depend upon our natural environment to give us a good quality of life and to support a healthy economy. As Swindon’s population continues to grow, it becomes more and more crucial for us to recognise this and to develop in ways that are genuinely sustainable.”

Fiona Reynolds, former Director-General of the National Trust and author of the report’s foreword, said: “It’s great to see that we are already reducing our impact in many ways – carbon emissions and waste produced per person have fallen in recent years, farmers are making a difference through agri-environment schemes, there is new investment in restoration of our rivers and many important wildlife sites are being well protected. This is good news, yet there is so much more to do. This report gives us a compelling platform for action.”

To request a hard copy of the report, please email info@link2nature.org.uk