Future Countryside

Parliament has now risen for the summer recess and returns in early October.  I agree with David Cameron that this break is far too long, and in fact I have voted - unsuccessfully - for the House of Commons to sit in September.

But this period is by no means all holiday!  I will certainly be going away in August, but the recess also provides an opportunity to catch up in my office, which continues to work throughout the summer, and also have useful meetings both in the constituency and across the country.

This week, in my role as Shadow Environment Secretary, I've been visiting farms in East Anglia, and today I am at the Game Fair in Rutland.

On a farm owned by the RSPB near Cambridge, I saw how measures like seed-rich grass strips at the edge of fields can benefit wildlife without any loss of income.  They have seen a wonderful rise in the number of birds like skylarks on their farm.

I also visited the Great Fen project, an extraordinarily ambitious habitat restoration between Huntingdon and Peterborough that aims to create a 9,000 acre wetland.

The question of how we reconcile the twin objectives of growing more food and conserving the environment will be one of the great challenges over the next few years, strongly influenced by the impact of climate change.

So this week I have launched an initiative called ‘Future Countryside' (http://www.futurecountryside.com/), an online forum for experts and the public to debate how we should address the issues facing nature conservation and biodiversity decline today.

I'm delighted that Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, has written for the website, saying that "we are extremely lucky to have a very rich natural heritage on both land and sea which is enjoyed by many".

I agree.  And we need to ensure that we have the right policies to protect and enhance the natural world in future.

Michelle Taylor