Jess Price, Conservation Officer in the Conservation Policy and Evidence team
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Brighton and have always been interested in conservation. My family were members of Sussex Wildlife Trust and regular visitors to Woods Mill. I studied zoology at Cambridge then came back to this area. I volunteered for the Trust, became a Youth Ranger, and then trained as a Forest School Leader. In 2010, I was looking for a related job, and saw the role of maternity cover for the WildCall Officer post come up and applied for it. I didn’t know such a job existed. You get asked such varied questions. But I had a science background, plus practical knowledge, so if I couldn’t answer a question, I could find out the answer through research.
Over time it became clear that a lot of people were calling about planning and development issues. So I began to learn about how the system works. In 2016, I became full time Conservation Officer and Charlotte Owen was recruited in my place as WildCall Officer.
Give us a potted version of what your job involves
At the heart it’s about advocacy; trying to influence councils and the Government to make good decisions for wildlife. Generally this is through working with them on strategic plans and policies and trying to get consideration of biodiversity embedded into decision making.
Lots of my work is focused on Local Plans, as there is a lot of development pressure in Sussex. But many councils are also producing Climate Action Plans and Sustainability Strategies. It’s really important that recovering wildlife is seen as a core mechanism of addressing both the climate and ecological emergencies.
From what do you get most satisfaction in your role?
Making changes to documents and polices I know will influence a lot of people and decisions. For example, a Local Plan can take four years to be adopted. I might work to just get an extra sentence in the biodiversity policy, but that sentence is really important.
What are you most proud of?
Empowering other people and local communities to get involved. Planning may not be glamorous, but it’s really important.
What’s most challenging?
Frustration at things not joining up. Recovering wildlife in the UK would help solve a lot of problems around the climate, economy and health, but sometimes the connections aren’t always recognized by policy makers.
What are your favourite wild places and species?
I’ve spent my whole life by coastal habitats and love how dynamic they are. But the Nightjar is my favourite species. It’s so weird, the night flying and the eerie churring. There’s loads of folklore around them too. You can only find them on heathland and there’s not a lot of that in Sussex anymore, so finding them is a bit more of an adventure.
Nightjar at Iping Common by Neil Fletcher
What’s coming up for you?
There is massive planning reform being proposed at the moment. We need to get the Government to commit to a Nature Recovery Networks as the basis of the planning system. Our campaign is running until 29th October, but that isn’t the end of it. There will be loads more consultations and lots more work to do.
What would you like to say to members?
Do get involved in local planning. People can make a difference and it matters. Contact WildCall if you’re worried.