The design and establishment of protected areas has been a cornerstone of nature conservation policy. Protected areas have expanded both globally and within England over recent decades. However, biodiversity continues to decline across multiple taxa and the UK is expected not to meet the Aichi Biodiversity targets. England’s wildlife is now among the most depleted in Europe. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that many species are already predestined for extinction due to levels of habitat fragmentation already reached and growing evidence that pervasive landscape-wide pressures, such as agricultural fertilisers and pesticides, are important drivers of biodiversity loss. In this think piece we ask if we can re-envisage and implement a network of protected areas able to reverse this decline.