Brecks’ bid for special environmental status

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THETFORD’S wildlife could be about to get some special attention after a bid was entered for a pioneering conservation scheme.

On Friday, the Brecks Partnership bid for a share of a £7.5 million grant fund to make the area one of the country’s first Nature Improvement Areas (NIA).

The Government launched the application process after releasing its Natural Environment White Paper earlier this year.

The NIAs would ‘provide bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change’, according to Defra.

Neil Featherstone, manager of the Brecks Partnership, said NIA status would help to raise the Brecks’ profile.

“Most people use the Brecks as a conduit to get to other areas and we want them to stop and explore the area rather than just pass through. This NIA status would raise the Brecks up the agenda,” he said.

Mr Featherstone said the move would allow landowners and other bodies to network freely on conservation matters and insisted everyone would play a part in the process.

“It means we can come up with a shared outlook to provide better management for the Brecks and prevent areas becoming isolated and the area being fragmented,” he said.

The NIA bid would protect and improve the Brecks’ biodiversity, and raise awareness of the area’s unique features, according to Mr Featherstone.

The partnership’s bid comes after the success of its own biodiversity audit in 2006.

The study found 12,845 species resident in the area, of which 2,149 are of national conservation concern. Another 77 are designated ‘Breckland specialists’, whose existence is either entirely or primarily contained within the Brecks.

Mr Featherstone said the results of the audit had added extra weight to the NIA bid.

“Everybody thought the Brecks was special but not this special and the audit identified more species than we expected,” he said.

The partnership’s bid is in stage one of the process, with two stages to go.

A final decision is due in February after which the NIA project would start in April.