Acquisition of land for wildlife will create a wilder Dorset

Court Farm Panorama - Rob Farrington/Dorset Wildlife Trust

Wildlife in Dorset will get more of the space it desperately needs to spread and regenerate following Dorset Wildlife Trust’s acquisition of a large area of land south-east of Bere Regis.

In an effort to tackle the climate and ecological crises, this site will showcase sustainable change in land use. The site measures 170 hectares – the size of around 230 football pitches. While plans are still being confirmed, Dorset Wildlife Trust aims to restore the site to a place where wildlife can flourish and people can connect with nature. Healthy ecosystems provide homes for wildlife that is in critical decline in the UK and help battle the climate crisis by storing carbon in wetlands, soils and plants.

Dorset Wildlife Trust is also excited to involve the local community with planning for the site to ensure their voices are heard and they are able to benefit from regular contact with nature.

Brian Bleese, Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “Given a chance, nature can play a key role in addressing climate change and environmental degradation. Our wildlife is also declining in both diversity and abundance and we need to make more space for nature. The acquisition of this land gives us a huge opportunity to bring back nature on a large scale and we look forward to working with the local community to involve people of all backgrounds and abilities in learning about and enjoying wildlife, while helping it to prosper.”

The acquisition was made possible with help from We have the POWER founder Julia Davies who led on the purchase giving Dorset Wildlife Trust time to secure funds from several legacies left by dedicated Dorset Wildlife Trust members and supporters, as well as significant  investments from BCP Council and Dorset Council. The councils’ contributions came from the Community Infrastructure Levy, to mitigate the effect of additional nitrates entering Poole Harbour as a result of new housing and tourism developments.

High levels of nitrates in waterways cause algal blooms which severely damage wildlife ecosystems, and in Poole Harbour these mainly come from current and historic use of fertilisers, as well as treated sewage. Moving away from intensive farming on this land will help ensure nitrate levels don’t increase in Poole Harbour, but Dorset Wildlife Trust wants to go even further by reducing net nitrate levels. This could be achieved through natural recovery solutions such as creating new wetland habitat on the site. Feasibility studies will begin immediately.

Councillor Philip Broadhead, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Economy and Strategic Planning for BCP Council, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to go above and beyond mitigating the environmental impact of delivering 2,076 essential new homes within the Poole Local Plan area, which is part of our larger drive to act at scale and build 15,000 new homes across the conurbation. With this single investment, funded by the developers themselves, we vastly exceed the necessary area of agricultural land required to be repurposed as part of our protection of the Poole Special Harbour Protection Area.
 
“Personally, I’m also hugely excited by Dorset Wildlife Trust’s plans: I can’t wait to see the positive effect they have on our already outstanding natural environment.”

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “Our recent Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy consultation clearly demonstrated that residents expect our countryside to play a vital role in how we address the challenges of climate change in the future. These ambitious plans are not only a great example of how we can work toward a sustainable balance between the natural environment and the needs of Dorset’s communities, but also what can be achieved when we all work toward a common goal.”

We have the POWER founder, Julia Davies said: “To help nature recover we need to find innovative ways of helping conservation groups like Dorset Wildlife Trust acquire land for nature. Fundraising takes time and so I’m delighted to have been able to get the ball rolling on this acquisition and am excited to see the site develop as a showcase for how nature can be given the space it needs whilst providing rural job creation and continuing to play a role in food production through free grazing animals and helping people reconnect with nature.”

Look out for exciting opportunities to get involved and discover how you can support our preparatory work at the site here