In response to the government’s 2008 report, ‘Securing Biodiversity’ which set out the conservation challenges associated with the long term decline of many of England’s plants and animals; between 2009 and 2011 Natural England worked with the former England Biodiversity Group to trial new methods of improving nature protection through the establishment of a pilot programme to develop Integrated Biodiversity Delivery Areas (IBDAs).
IBDAs were developed in response to the limitations of protecting species though smaller isolated sites and fragmented networks; and were designed to cover areas of regional significance and comprise of entire landscapes. IBDAs sought to create connectivity between such sites and restore habitats across a wider area in order to better meet the needs of wildlife.
Eight IBDAs were established including: Tamar to Exe; Wye, Severn and Avon Vales; London Thames and Tributaries; the Fens; Southern Peaks and Fringes; South Downs; South Pennines and Dark Peak; and Derwent Valley and Pennine Fringe. Each area was defined by its own unique character and set of aims and objectives for improving nature conservation.
The IBDA pilot programme alongside a range of other significant national partner led landscape scale programmes has been influential in promoting the role of large scale conservation; as illustrated by the publication of ‘Making Space for Nature’ an independent review of England’s wildlife sites in 2010, and the Government’s announcement of the Nature Improvement Area competition alongside the publication of the Natural Environment White Paper in 2011.
Further to the completion of the government's Nature Improvement Area Programme competition, Defra have expressed the wish for further locally determined NIAs to be established; as a result the Integrated Biodiversity Delivery Area pilot programme has now closed and the IBDA partnerships continue to transition in light of new opportunities.
In 2012 three out of the seven operational IBDAs were successful in the NIA competition, representing three out of the final 12 NIAS; this includes the South Pennines and Dark Peak IBDA successful in securing part of its original partnership programme within the Dark Peak NIA, The South Downs IBDA which has been successful as the South Downs Way Ahead NIA, and part of the London Thames and Tributaries IBDA which is now the Thames Marshes NIA.. The remaining IBDAs are continuing to transition and develop their programmes through to delivery at a local level.
As part of securing a legacy for the programme the experiences of those engaged in the IBDA pilot programme have been captured and will feed into a major review of large scale conservation in Great Britain led by Natural England and its research partners. The review will be completed in 2013.