Local Nature Recovery Strategies: how to prepare and what to include

Closes 2 Nov 2021

Opened 10 Aug 2021

Overview

Executive summary

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are a new, England-wide system of spatial strategies that will establish priorities and map proposals for specific actions to drive nature’s recovery and provide wider environmental benefits. The requirement for there to be Local Nature Recovery Strategies, what they are and how they should generally work will be established by the Environment Bill once it completes its current passage through Parliament.

The area covered by each Local Nature Recovery Strategy will be set by the Defra Secretary of State, who will also appoint a “responsible authority” for each to lead its preparation. The Defra Secretary of State will also be able to produce regulations on the process for preparing, publishing, reviewing and republication of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy and guidance on what each Strategy should contain. Put simply, the regulations will set the requirements that all “responsible authorities” must follow when preparing and updating their Strategy and the guidance will describe in greater detail what they should be seeking to produce.

The purpose of this consultation is to gather views on key questions that will help Government produce both the regulations and the guidance swiftly after the Environment Bill becomes law.

The consultation includes an overview of what Local Nature Recovery Strategies are and how Government intends for them to be used. The questions themselves focus first on the process (regulations) and then the content (guidance) of Local Nature Recovery Strategies. Questions are preceded by an explanation of the issue to which they relate, indicating what aspects of Government’s approach to implementing Local Nature Recovery Strategies has already been decided and what remains to be established.

Government’s overall ambition is that Local Nature Recovery Strategies will be a powerful new tool that will help the public, private and voluntary sectors work more effectively together for nature’s recovery, and enable collective effort to be focussed where it will have most benefit. Key to achieving this will be creating genuine local collaboration with a partnership of organisations and individuals working closely with each “responsible authority”. The regulations and guidance, which are the focus of this consultation, have an important role in establishing this, and in making sure that Local Nature Recovery Strategies are shaped to work with the funding mechanisms and decision making processes that will drive their delivery.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are an important part of an ambitious package of measures being introduced by the Environment Bill to reverse nature’s decline. Environmental Improvement Plans and legally-binding targets, including the additional target for species abundance for 2030, will establish long-term policy direction and ambition. Biodiversity net gain will drive investment in nature from the development sector whilst the strengthened “biodiversity duty” will make sure the public sector plays a leading role. Species Conservation Strategies and Protected Sites Strategies will drive a more strategic approach to planning for the needs of our most precious species and places, whilst conservation covenants will strengthen the ability of organisations and individuals to ensure their land will be managed for nature in the longer term. Local Nature Recovery Strategies have been designed to work with all of these measures and to help link them together in a coherent and effective way.

Introduction

This consultation seeks views on the implementation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, an important new policy contained in the Environment Bill. Seeking views while the Environment Bill is still being considered by Parliament will enable this measure to be implemented swiftly after the Bill receives Royal Assent. References to clause numbers in this consultation are to those listed in the Environment Bill as amended in Lords Committee

The Environment Bill will enable the Defra Secretary of State to make regulations about the procedures that must be followed and to issue guidance that must be considered by those bodies to whom these new duties apply. This consultation seeks to explain the purpose of the regulations and guidance and to gather views on what approach they should take on key issues. Responses to the consultation will then inform the preparation of these two key documents.

Whilst the regulations and guidance will only apply directly to specific public authorities (in most cases these are likely to be English local authorities) they will affect a broad range of other groups and individuals. The purpose of Local Nature Recovery Strategies is to help reverse an ongoing decline of biodiversity in England, an issue of considerable public interest with important economic and societal implications. Local Nature Recovery Strategies will achieve this by driving greater consideration of and planning for the action needed for nature to recover; providing the foundation of a national Nature Recovery Network. This will encourage direct change in how all public authorities act as decision makers, regulators and landowners. Local Nature Recovery Strategies will also enable better targeting of public and private funds to encourage action for nature and the wider environment. This will ultimately inform what funding to make environmental improvements landowners and managers will be able to access.

Background to consultation

What are Local Nature Recovery Strategies?

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are a new system of spatial strategies for nature, which will cover the whole of England. They are established by clauses 100 to 104 of the Environment Bill and are designed as tools to drive more coordinated, practical and focussed action to help nature.

Each Strategy will, for the area that it covers;

  • agree priorities for nature’s recovery,
  • map the most valuable existing areas for nature
  • map specific proposals for creating or improving habitat for nature and wider environmental goals.

The production of each Local Nature Recovery Strategy will be evidence-based, locally led and collaborative, to create a network of shared plans that public, private and voluntary sectors can all help to deliver. This will provide a locally owned foundation to developing and underpinning the Nature Recovery Network; identifying the places which, once action has been taken on the ground, will enable the Network to grow over time. This is turn will help achieve wider environmental objectives (like carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change or managing flood risk) and contribute to green economic recovery objectives.

The Government anticipates that there will be roughly 50 Local Nature Recovery Strategies which together will cover the whole of England with no gaps and no overlaps. Precise boundaries will be established by the Defra Secretary of State on a case-by-case basis after Royal Assent of the Bill, so that each and every Local Nature Recovery Strategy covers an area that is both large enough to plan for nature recovery across landscapes and meaningful to local people. It is anticipated that in many cases there will be one Local Nature Recovery Strategy per county (or equivalent) but individual geographies will be set according to an assessment of local circumstances.

The Defra Secretary of State will also appoint a “responsible authority” to lead production of each Strategy from the list of potential public bodies set out in clause 101 of the Bill. By and large they will be public bodies that will have a strong knowledge of the local area and established democratic mandates, ensuring the necessary legitimacy and status to lead a collaborative process with other local partner organisations.

How does the Government intend Local Nature Recovery Strategies to be used?

The creation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies was announced in government’s response to the 2019 public consultation on net gain which revealed strong support for maps to guide the provision of compensatory habitat. The Environment Bill, in addition to establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies, will make delivering biodiversity net gain a mandatory part of the development process. Off-site habitat enhancement will be required when a development is not able to accommodate the required increase in biodiversity on the development site itself. The biodiversity metric – which calculates biodiversity value (in units) before and after development – includes a 15% uplift in units generated in locations proposed by the Local Nature Recovery Strategy to encourage developers to focus on these places where the benefit will be greatest.

The 2019 net gain consultation response also indicated government’s intention that Local Nature Recovery Strategies would have a broader role in the land use planning system than supporting net gain; as an important source of evidence for local planning authorities to use in preparation of their Local Plans. Last summer the government published for consultation the Planning for the Future White Paper which proposed substantial reform of the planning system. The White Paper highlighted Local Nature Recovery Strategies as an example of how the reformed planning system could play a proactive role in promoting environmental recovery and long-term sustainability. Defra and MHCLG have been working closely on proposals for planning reform to consider what future role Local Nature Recovery Strategies should play.

The Environment Bill also includes a strengthening of the existing duty on public authorities to conserve biodiversity. Additional requirements include a specific duty on all public authorities to “have regard” to relevant Local Nature Recovery Strategies, and a duty for specified public bodies to report every five years on what action they have taken.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are also intended to support the delivery of wider environmental objectives. “Nature based solutions” refers to the use of nature and natural processes to address wider environmental or societal problems. Examples include restoring peatlands to slow the flow of water into river systems to reduce the risk of flooding, or planting trees near rivers to limit soil erosion that impacts on water quality. The benefits and policies supporting the planting and protection of trees, as well as the restoration of peat, are outlined further in the recently published England Trees Action Plan and England Peat Action Plan respectively. Each Local Nature Recovery Strategy will map specific opportunities for taking priority action for nature recovery and the use of “nature-based solutions” to wider environmental problems like flooding, climate change mitigation and adaptation or poor water quality. This will help direct efforts on the ground and enable funding and resources for meeting specific environmental objectives to be used more efficiently and effectively in the support of nature recovery.

Government is developing future schemes that reward the delivery of environmental benefits to replace the agri-environment schemes created as part of the Common Agricultural Policy. The proposed Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes will both involve target financial incentives towards the locations and activities where these will have the most environmental benefit. It is intended that Local Nature Recovery Strategies will play a critical role in identifying the locations and prioritising the activities that will be eligible for funding under both these future schemes.

In preparing their Local Nature Recovery Strategy, it is intended that each “responsible authority” will work closely with relevant public, private and voluntary sector organisations to draw on this collective expertise. Each Strategy should also reflect collective knowledge of relevant planned or ongoing nature recovery activity, enabling Local Nature Recovery Strategies to improve integration between existing efforts to improve the environment, for example, by incorporating land management initiatives being taken to improve water quality that will also benefit nature.

Government’s overall ambition is that Local Nature Recovery Strategies will become the new focal point for a broad range of land use and management activity, and in so doing deliver a step-change in the effectiveness of the action we are taking for nature’s recovery and associated environmental improvement.

The global coronavirus pandemic has also underlined the important benefits to public health and wellbeing from access to nature and green spaces. The government expects that public authorities will wish to use the process of creating their Local Nature Recovery Strategy to also identify opportunities to increase access to nature whilst supporting its recovery. This could help build local support for action for nature recovery and appreciation of its value in the longer-term. The government’s guidance on Local Nature Recovery Strategies may provide guidance on including access considerations and address the relationship between the Strategies and action to improve access to existing greenspace.

Piloting of Local Nature Recovery Strategies

Defra funded five Local Nature Recovery Strategy pilots that ran from August 2020 to May 2021. The pilots were set up to help us better understand how to go about preparing a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, what a Local Nature Recovery Strategy might look like and how Local Nature Recovery Strategies interact with other planning processes at a local level. Lessons learnt from the pilots have been collated and will be considered alongside responses to this public consultation as we prepare to implement Local Nature Recovery Strategies across England.

The five pilots covered Cornwall, Cumbria, Buckinghamshire, Greater Manchester and Northumberland. They were overseen by Natural England with a local authority lead for each, working closely with partner organisations, in particular the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission. Defra officials worked alongside the pilots and early lessons learnt have helped shape this consultation.

The pilots were asked to test a process for preparing a Local Nature Recovery Strategy based closely on the requirements of the Environment Bill clauses and in line with our commitment that Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be produced collaboratively with input from a broad range of partners. This process is illustrated below.

The process was also supported by Local Conveners in each of the pilot areas, who were appointed by Defra and had responsibility for understanding how the Local Nature Recovery Strategies could be used to support future schemes that reward environmental benefits (primarily Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes). Their role also involved consulting widely with farmers and other land managers who will be the focal point of these future schemes, to consider how their views could best be incorporated in Local Nature Recovery Strategy outputs.

Local Nature Recovery Strategy 6-step process – detailed step process:

  • step 0: Government provides a map of each Strategy area, including habitats and national conservation sites
  • step 1: Locally held data is added to the map, including locally identified wildlife sites
  • step 2: Description of the Strategy area, including its key habitats and potential opportunities to create or improve them
  • step 3: Identification of outcomes, achieved through creation or improvement of habitat, and grouping of these into “priority” and “other”
  • step 4: Potential measures for creating or improving habitat to achieve the priority and other outcomes
  • step 5: Mapping of suitable locations for the delivery of the potential measures onto map of existing habitat (established in Steps 0 and 1)

Steps 2, 3 & 4 combine to create the “statement of biodiversity priorities”

Steps 0, 1 & 5 combine to create the “local habitat map

step 0: Government provides a map of each Strategy area, including habitats and national conservation sites step 1: Locally held data is added to the map, including locally identified wildlife sites step 2: Description of the Strategy area, including its key habitats and potential opportunities to create or improve them step 3: Identification of outcomes, achieved through creation or improvement of habitat, and grouping of these into “priority” and “other” step 4: Potential measures for creating or improving habitat to achieve the priority and other outcomes step 5: Mapping of suitable locations for the delivery of the potential measures onto map of existing habitat (established in Steps 0 and 1) Steps 2, 3 & 4 combine to create the “statement of biodiversity priorities”  Steps 0, 1 & 5 combine to create the “local habitat map”

 

Why your views matter

This consultation will be open online on Citizen Space for a period of 12 weeks, closing on Tuesday 2nd November. We are seeking views on how Government should implement Local Nature Recovery Strategies in England.

The first group of consultation questions are on how Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be prepared, published, reviewed and republished. This is the subject of regulations that Government will produce under clause 101(4) of the Environment Bill. The second group of consultation questions are on what a Local Nature Recovery Strategy should contain. This is the subject of guidance that Government will produce under clause 102(5) of the Bill. Clause 102(6) requires that responsible bodies must have regard to this guidance. As a result, guidance produced under clause 102(5) is referred to as “statutory guidance” to distinguish it from other types of guidance that is more advisory in nature.

Government has already made some commitments on its overall implementation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, for example, that preparation of Strategies should be collaborative. The questions in the following section are on those elements that have not yet been established. The questions are linked by an explanation of what the Bill clauses will require and commitments that have already been made to put these questions into context.

Responses to this consultation will inform the preparation of regulations and statutory guidance which will play a key role in the consistent implementation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies across England.

Give us your views

Audiences

  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Environmental campaigners
  • Government Departments
  • Coastal local authorities
  • National Park Authorities
  • Energy sector
  • Industries and professional services
  • Ports and Harbour Authorities and Estuaries
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Water Abstractors
  • Environmental professional services
  • House Building Industry
  • Households
  • Local Authorities
  • Waste Producers and Handlers
  • Business/Private Sector
  • Policy Teams
  • Transport Organisations
  • Local Authorities
  • Waste Management Companies
  • All Defra staff and ALBs
  • Non-Government Organisation
  • Member of the General Public
  • Landowners and their representative bodies
  • Walkers
  • Horse riders
  • Families
  • Students
  • Farmers
  • Fishermen
  • SME businesses
  • Energy suppliers
  • Water suppliers
  • Leisure industry
  • Tourism industry
  • Horticulture Industry
  • Tenant Farmers
  • Agricultural Landlords
  • Agricultural Valuers
  • Land Agents
  • Environmental Health Officers
  • Professional and Membership Organisations/Agencies
  • Public Bodies
  • Consultants
  • Beach Users
  • Stakeholders

Interests

  • Natural environment
  • Local nature partnerships
  • Biodiversity
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Tree and plant health
  • Climate change
  • Green infrastructure
  • Green economy
  • Water quality
  • Air quality
  • Local environments
  • Conservation
  • Consultations
  • DEFRA Policy
  • Policy and Delivery
  • Farm management
  • Land management
  • Rural economy and communities
  • National Parks
  • Nature reserves
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Common land
  • Conservation
  • Towns and village greens
  • Protecting wildlife