The Ecological Emergency

On the 7th October 2019 Camden Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Nature is in crisis. The abundance and diversity of nature experienced by previous generations are not shared by present generations, and our lives are poorer for it. 

In 2019, a global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services  estimated that a million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, concluding that “…we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life.” The fact that so many species are declining at such a rate – 100 to 1000 times the natural background rate – has led to the situation being described as the planet’s “sixth mass extinction” .

The UK’s own assessment of its biodiversity indicators  shows that we are still failing in many areas, with priority species, farmland and woodland birds, and pollinating insects continuing to decline.

In 2019 the UK’s conservation and research organisations presented an overview of how the country’s wildlife is faring in the State of Nature report, looking back over nearly 50 years of monitoring to see how nature has changed in the UK, with a focus on the trends in species. They found that, since the 1970s:

  • 41% of species have decreased in abundance (the number of individuals in a species’ population)
  • 15% of species are threatened with extinction
  • Causes of decline

Nationally, the primary causes of species decline are agricultural management, climate change, pollution, urbanisation, lack of woodland management, hydrological change, and invasive non-native species. Many of these are also global drivers of species loss, driven by international markets, including demand from the UK . At a more regional or local scale not all of these apply to the same extent, and many of the problems Camden’s wildlife faces – problems we need to face up to if we want to help wildlife – are those typical of an urbanised environment.

As part of the declaration of the Ecological Emergency, the council committed to “…produce a new ecological plan for Camden to sustain and improve biodiversity in Camden…” and to encourage “…all citizens, businesses, and organisations or groups in the borough of Camden to join with the Council to…protect and improve biodiversity, in order to avert impending catastrophe.

Creating space for nature in Camden

On the 7 October 2019 Camden Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. As part of that declaration, the council committed to 

“…produce a new ecological plan for Camden to sustain and improve biodiversity in Camden…” and to encourage “…all citizens, businesses, and organisations or groups in the borough of Camden to join with the Council to…protect and improve biodiversity, in order to avert impending catastrophe.”

The Council adopted a new biodiversity strategy, 'Creating space for nature in Camden' in January 2022.

The strategy sets out a vision and seven key objectives. These will be achieved by establishing a Camden Nature Recovery Network and a new Biodiversity Action Plan, which will be developed and delivered by working with organisations across the Borough in a Camden Nature Partnership.

Our decisions will be evidence-based, plan for a changing climate, and involve communication and engagement with, and the participation of, the citizens and communities of Camden.

The biodiversity strategy 'Creating space for nature in Camden' can be downloaded below.

Download 'Creating space for nature in Camden' (web quality 7MB)

Download 'Creating space for nature in Camden' (print quality 13MB)

 

Biodiversity Action Plan

The core of our Biodiversity Strategy, key to delivering a Nature Recovery Network and achieving our vision and objectives, is the Biodiversity Action Plan. As with the previous Biodiversity Action Plan, it will be developed and delivered alongside many other organisations working in the Borough. Many of these organisations are already doing great things for nature. 

The Council’s actions will be informed by the vision and objectives of the biodiversity strategy, as well as public consultation. Not only will the Action Plan set out what the Council will be doing to achieve the objectives and vision, it will also communicate actions being undertaken by other organisations in the Borough, and act as a resource for all. The initial list of identified actions for the Council to lead on is provided below.

Developing and delivering actions will be an ongoing process. The Action Plan will be a live document updated regularly to include any new projects that emerge and update ongoing actions, either annually for ongoing actions or at a frequency appropriate to a project’s timetable.

While reporting on the achievements of the activities and projects in the Action Plan will be an ongoing process, progress made against the objectives will be assessed every five years. This will involve measuring the achievements of the Action Plan against losses from external factors or unforeseen events. This will identify any gaps in both the Action Plan and the overall strategy, seeking to identify new actions to fill those gaps or revise and expand the objectives as necessary.

Actions:

(Actions may contribute to more than one objective but are only listed once)

Establish a Memorandum of Understanding for the Camden Nature Partnership
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation Officer)
Target date: Spring 2022

Develop the Camden Nature Recovery Network: identify core areas, corridors and stepping stones. 
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation Officer), Planning. 
Target date: Autumn 2023

Develop a Participation Plan to engage residents in taking action and decision making. 
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Participation. 
Target date: Autumn 2022

Develop and communication plan and calendar
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Parks Services), Communications. 
Target date: Spring 2022

Biodiversity Action Map and Action submission form online
Lead department: Green Spaces (nature Conservation), GIS. 
Target date: Spring 2022

Designated Sites 

Revise Management Plans for Local Nature Reserves
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Undertake a review of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation and potential SINCs
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation) and Planning
Target date: Autumn 2022

Review management of Council-owned Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Review Local Nature Reserve Designations and identify potential new sites for designation
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Increase proportion of SINCs in positive managament for biodiversity (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: 2026

Species 

Review species records for the borough to determine likely status
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Review borough-wide monitoring of hedgehogs and develop project
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Develop hedgehog awareness and connectivity project linking core populations and Council green spaces
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Produce a 'State of Camden's Nature' Report from the review of species and habitats evidence
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Develop Bat Monitoring project for the Regent's Canal
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Produce guidance for the public about how to help nature in Camden
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Develop and promote a programme of citizen science activities and support submission of biological records
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Communication, Participation
Target date: Spring 2023

Habitats

Identify areas for creation of new flower-rich meadows
Lead department: Green Spaces (Grounds Maintenance and Nature Conservation)
Target date: Ongoing

Increase the area of Flower-rich meadows (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2026

Identify areas for creation of new reedbeds
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Ongoing

Increase the area of reedbed habitats (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2026

Review management of Council-owned woodland to increase species diversity
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Trees and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autun 2023

Identify areas for planting of new species rich woodland
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Trees and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Increase the area of species-rich woodland through management changes and planting (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2026

Resurvey area of priority habitats
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Determine potential to restore and create access to Medley Road Orchard
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autumn 2023

Produce wildlife gardening advice
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2023

Produce advice for allotment holders on encouraging wildlife
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2022

Trees 

Increase Council Tree Canopy Cover (target as per minimum in Tree Planting Strategy)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Trees)
Target date: Ongoing

Increase Council tree species diversity
Lead department: Green Spaces (Trees)
Target date: Ongoing

Create tree species and biodiversity guidance
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Trees)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Promote Tree Planting on Private Land
Lead department: Green Spaces (Trees and Nature Conservation)
Target date: Ongoing

Greening the Grey

Produced revised Camden Planning Guidance: Biodiversity
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Planning
Target date: Winter 22/23

Ensure developments in Camden result in increased biodiversity
Lead department: Planning, Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Community Investment Programme
Target date: Ongoing

Identify project opportunities for urban greening for biodiversity in areas with deficiency in green space
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Green Spaces Development, Grounds Maintenance), Housing
Target date: Autumn 2022, then Ongoing

Identify project opportunities for urban greening for biodiversity in areas of Deficiency in Access to Nature
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Green Spaces Development, Grounds Maintenance), Housing
Target date: Autumn 2022, then Ongoing

Identify project opportunities for urban greening for biodiversity in areas of deprivation
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Green Spaces Development, Grounds Maintenance), Housing
Target date: Autumn 2022, then Ongoing

Produce developer guidance for delivering Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in Camden
Lead department: Planning and Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Autumn 2023

Integrate the objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy with Council approaches to Sustainable Urban Drainage and other nature based solutions
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Green Space Development), Sustainability
Target date: Ongoing

Ensure all Green Space Development projects include planting for biodiversity
Lead department:
Green Spaces (Green Space Development, Nature Conservation, Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Ongoing

Parks and Green Spaces 

Increase the area of meadows and relaxed mowing in parks and green spaces (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: 2026

Increase the length of conservation hedgerows across Parks and Green Spaces (Target TBC)
Lead department: Green Spaces (Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: 2026

Produce guidance for 'Friends of' Groups about how to help nature
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation, Parks Services and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Spring 2022

New and replaced areas of planting to include species of benefit to pollinators
Lead department:
Green Spaces (Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Ongoing

Provide a point of contact and promotion between park users and Council Nature Conservation initiatives
Lead department: Green Spaces (Parks Services)
Target date: Ongoing

Access to Nature

Increase number of Camden Green Gym sessions
Lead department: Green Spaces
Target date: 2026

Review opening times of Local Nature Reserves and similar sites
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Revise Outdoor Classroom system
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2022

Review signage an interpretation in Local Nature Reserves, nature reserves, and nature conservation elements in Parks and other green spaces
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation and Grounds Maintenance)
Target date: Autumn 2022

Include information on what wildlife can be seen where on Council website
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation)
Target date: Spring 2022

Develop (a) project(s) to better engage Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in nature conservation
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Participation, Housing
Target date: Autumn 2022

Develop a project to better engage those from deprived areas in nature conservation
Lead department: Green Spaces (Nature Conservation), Participation, Housing,
Target date: Autumn 2022

Designated Sites

Places designated for their wildlife value are at the core of nature’s recovery; refuges from where wildlife can expand out into surrounding areas, given the chance.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the country’s best wildlife and geological sites. Hampstead Heath Woods SSSI, part of the Kenwood Estate managed by English Heritage, is the only SSSI in Camden. SSSI is a statutory designation, and these sites receive a strong level of protection through legislation.

Site of Importance for Nature Conservation

A Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) is an area that is considered important for its biodiversity value at a London, borough or local level. Designations are declared by the local authority in conjunction with the London Wildlife Sites Board. It is a non-statutory designation, meaning such sites have no protection in law. However, in Camden they are afforded some protection from development through the planning process through policies in the Local Plan .

There are a number of ‘grades’ of SINC designation, reflecting the scale of importance of the area, from Metropolitan for sites important for London, including Hampstead Heath and the Regent’s Canal, to those important at a Local level, with a couple of grades for sites important at a Borough level in between. 

Camden has 38 areas designated as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, covering almost 414 hectares. Some of these are managed by the Council, the rest owned by various organisations, most notably the City of London Corporation, the Royal Parks and Network Rail. These SINCs form the core of Camden’s wildlife network.

Local Nature Reserves

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are sites that are important for wildlife and provide local communities with opportunities to access and engage with nature. They are designated by local authorities, in consultation with Natural England, and as a statutory designation they are afforded some protection through legislation and planning policy. There are four Local Nature Reserves in Camden: Adelaide, Belsize Wood, Westbere Copse, and Camley Street Natural Park
 

 

Habitats

There are many different types of habitat across the Borough, from the neatly mown amenity grassland of our parks to the ancient Ken Wood, from the Regent’s Canal to the spring-fed wet grassland flushes at Waterlow Park, and from small private gardens to extensive green roofs on office blocks.   

Amenity grassland is the most prevalent habitat and is widely distributed across Camden. While it has limited value for wildlife it does offer significant scope for improvement where this does not conflict with other needs – something the Council has been actively pursuing. Woodland is the second commonest habitat and supports a wide range of wildlife, mainly in the north of the borough or along railway embankments.

There are several habitats in Camden that have declined nationally and are of principal importance  for nature conservation. This includes woodland, neutral grassland, acid grassland, reedbeds, heathland, and ponds and canals.

Species

A diverse range of species have been recorded in Camden. This includes common and resident species, like blackbirds, recorded over 1,300 times since 1976, to species that have only been recorded once or a few times, which may be rare in the Borough, or hard to find, or both.

Some of these species have declined nationally to such an extent that they are considered of principal importance for nature conservation in England. Over 60 of these national priorities have been recorded in Camden, including house sparrows (60% decline in 40 years), toads (68% decline in 30 years), hedgehogs (46% population decline), and stag beetles. Additional species have been identified not as national priorities but of conservation concern for London, and over a dozen of such have been recorded in Camden. These include bats like common pipistrelles and Daubenton’s bats and birds including dunnocks, peregrines, black redstarts and song thrushes.

While species are well monitored at a few sites, and a few species are surveyed at larger scales, our knowledge of how well many species are doing across Camden is lacking. Looking at the data we have shows a mixed picture, with some species records increasing and other decreasing. This just shows us how frequently a species is recorded, however, not how it is doing. Hedgehog records have increased hugely for example, but this is almost certainly due to increased survey effort in recent years. Some species have not been recorded at all in the last ten years, but it may be that no one has looked for them in the right place or with the right survey method. We are working with experts to try and fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

List of species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity (S41) and London Species of Conservation Concern that have been recorded in Camden since 1980.

 

How to help nature

No one person or organisation can solve the ecological crisis, and helping nature recover in Camden is going to take all of us doing what we can; a diversity of individuals, community groups, schools, organisations and businesses  - and the Council - sharing our enthusiasm, knowledge, resources, and skills. We've provided some ideas for how to help nature below, with links to further information.

Whether you do something from this list or are already doing something, be sure to tell us about it using the form linked to in the 'Your action for nature' section.

Sharing your space with nature - Gardening for wildlife

There are around 48,000 gardens in Camden, covering over 400 hectares, but even if you only have space for a window box or a plant pot or two you can do something for nature. One of the best things you can do is provide food for insects and other animals by growing wildlife-friendly plants, and putting up bird, bat or insect boxes can also help.

The following links provide some useful guides for helping wildlife in the garden

Lending a hand - Volunteering

Many people do not have a garden of their own. If you don’t have your own outdoor space, there are opportunities to help look after other areas, like our nature reserves, community gardens and parks. One of the simplest ways to do this is to join the group that helps look after your nearest Park (information can usually be found on the Park noticeboard), but there are several opportunities across the Borough.

Lending your eyes and ears - recording wildlife sightings

Despite all we do know about Camden’s wildlife, we also know there are gaps in our knowledge. Having a good understanding of where wildlife is helps us to protect it and connect it, increasing its chances of surviving and thriving. Everyone can help contribute to our knowledge and fill these gaps by recording wildlife, whether it’s by submitting an occasional bird sighting, taking part in national annual citizen science projects like the Big Garden Bird Count or the Big Butterfly Count, or undertaking a more detailed survey. Wildlife sightings are welcome from anywhere whether seen from your window or spotted in a nature reserve or park.

All wildlife sightings can be submitted to Greenspace Information for Greater London
 
The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, which doesn’t have to be done in a garden, takes place in winter and the Big Butterfly Count takes place in summer  

London-specific wildlife recording links include:

The Bat Conservation Trust runs a number of different surveys through the National Bat Monitoring Programme. The Sunset Survey is ideal for those with those without any previous bat surveying experience, though there are online resources and workshops to build up the skills to help with the other surveys. 

Further advice

If you look after a green space in Camden and need further advice on improving it for nature, or finding out what nature is there, contact the Nature Conservation Officer.

Email the Nature Conservation Officer
 

Being a ‘conscious consumer’

Much biodiversity loss around the world is a result of global demand, and so the food we eat and the things we buy may, directly or indirectly, be a part of this. Production of palm oil, used in almost 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, is a major driver of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, and the production of soy has led to huge areas of deforestation and habitat loss in south America. Forest loss and conversion of soils also releases greenhouse gases and thus contributes to climate change. In the UK, peatlands, vital for wildlife, storing water and carbon, are still being stripped despite a government pledge to end peat sales by 2020. By being a ‘conscious consumer’ and avoiding those products and ingredients links to biodiversity decline you can contribute to positive change. More information on products and their links to biodiversity loss and other issues can be found on EthicalConsumer.

Outdoor learning 

Camden’s nature reserves and green spaces provide a rich environment for outdoor learning. Most of our nature reserves are open to the public at weekends. 

Schools and childcare settings can book sites for self-led activities during the week. A booking enquiry form will need to be filled out. This can be done as either:

We would encourage the online word document option as it is more sustainable. 

You will also need to provide a Risk Assessment for your activities, and evidence of your Public Liability Insurance. You are also required to agree to abide by Camden Schools Nature Reserves Code of Conduct when using a nature site. 

Maps of childcare locations and nearby nature areas: 

Camden Green Gym

Many of Camden's nature reserves, as well as biodiversity features in parks and green spaces, are maintained by the good will and ongoing support of volunteers.

The Conservation Volunteers lead twice-weekly conservation Green Gyms that work across the borough, and there are three independent Community Green Gyms that concentrate on particular sites.

Not only does volunteering with the Green Gyms help look after nature, it also keeps us active, improves our health and provides opportunities to learn about nature conservation and habitat creation and management.

Guidance, training and tools provided so no experience is necessary.

Learn more about Green Gyms in Camden

Your action for nature

No one person or organisation can solve the ecological crisis, and helping nature recover in Camden is going to take all of us doing what we can. A diversity of individuals, community groups, schools, organisations, businesses, and the Council. Sharing our enthusiasm, knowledge, resources, and skills.

If you are not sure what you can do, have a look at the ‘How to help nature’ section for some ideas.

If you are already doing something to help nature in Camden we want to hear about it.

We can even add it to our Biodiversity Action Map so it can be shared with others. This will be great if you are looking to connect with the wider community, looking for volunteers or just want to enthuse others. Feel free to include a photo and ask any questions if you would like some advice.

Tell us about your action for nature