Conservation Covenants

Closed 22 Mar 2019

Opened 22 Feb 2019


1.  Leaving our environment in a better state than we found it for future generations to enjoy requires long-term investment and stability. Where land owners seek to secure positive environmental outcomes they have no adequate mechanism to secure those benefits over the long term. We need a new legal tool – conservation covenants.   

2  A conservation covenant is a private, voluntary agreement between a landowner and a “responsible” body, such as a conservation charity, government body or a local authority.  It delivers lasting conservation benefit for the public good.  A covenant sets out obligations in respect of the land which will be legally binding not only on the landowner but on subsequent owners of the land.

3. The absence of this legal tool has resulted in people using costly and complex workarounds to conserve our wildlife, habitats or heritage assets.  The results, however, have been less than ideal.

4. The Law Commission examined the need for conservation covenants in 2013 and published its report in 2014.  It concluded that legislation should be introduced.  The full report setting out the analysis and conclusions is available on the Law Commission website which can be visited here.  The Law Commission prepared a draft Bill to implement the proposals. 

5. The Government’s ambition is that we leave the environment in a better state than we found it.   The 25 Year Environment Plan sets out the Government’s ambitious goals for nature and biodiversity in England.  In the Plan we undertook to assess the demand and potential for conservation covenants to secure lasting conservation outcomes; and to work with stakeholders to review and take forward the Law Commission’s proposals for conservation covenants in England.

6. We see conservation covenants as a valuable tool that can help deliver positive outcomes for conservation.  We therefore plan to introduce the broad thrust of the Law Commission proposals. 

7. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on our intention to introduce the Law Commission proposals, with some amendments.   It supplements the Law Commission public consultation on its proposals in 2013.  That consultation secured responses from 57 individuals and organisations from academia, the conservation sector, the legal community, land-owning bodies and others.  The Law Commission also held meetings around the time of their consultation, and we held stakeholder meetings in October 2018.     

8. We wish to gather additional information on:

  • the demand and potential for conservation covenants to secure long-term benefits from investment in nature conservation and other environmental outcomes;
  • the safeguards that need to be included;
  • any possible unintended consequences and whether the potential costs and benefits set out in the consultation paper appear a reasonable estimate of the impacts of introducing the tool; and
  • the Law Commission proposals and whether, with amendments we are proposing, they provide for a suitable statutory mechanism for England. 

Why your views matter

1. We have posed a number of questions in the consultation about demand, potential, safeguards and the Law Commission proposals for conservation covenants.    

2. We particularly want to be satisfied that there is the demand for conservation covenants and that they have the potential to deliver lasting conservation benefits.

3. We also wish to be satisfied that there are no unintended consequences of introducing conservation covenants and whether the proposed safeguards need to be strengthened to prevent abuses.

4. We have set out some amendments to the Law Commission proposals and would welcome views on them

5. We should also be interested to know whether the Law Commission proposals for enforcement against breaches might be supplemented in any way for addressing breaches which might not wholly warrant injunctions and/or damages. If so, we would be interested to know what processes might be employed.   

If you would like to keep in contact with us to express interest in this, or any other Defra consultation, please give us your details through the link below

What happens next

1. The consultation will run for four weeks, as it supplements the consultation undertaken by the Law Commission.  


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Environmental campaigners
  • Government Agencies
  • National Park Authorities
  • Recreation sector
  • Energy sector
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Environmental professional services
  • House Building Industry
  • Legal and Conveyancing Professions
  • Local Authorities
  • Non-Government Organisation
  • Walkers
  • Farmers
  • Energy suppliers
  • Water suppliers
  • Leisure industry
  • Insurance industry
  • Tenant Farmers
  • Agricultural Landlords
  • Agricultural Valuers
  • Land Agents


  • Natural environment
  • Local nature partnerships
  • Biodiversity
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Green infrastructure
  • Ecosystems services
  • Water conservation
  • Conservation
  • House Building and Planning
  • Land management
  • Access to countryside and coast
  • National Parks
  • Conservation
  • Solicitors specialising in agricultural law
  • Rural Properties
  • Wildlife management
  • Protecting wildlife