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Local Nature Recovery Strategies

Background

On 10 August 2021, Defra launched a public consultation on what should be included in Local Nature Recovery Strategies.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are strategies that will set “priorities and map proposals for specific actions to drive nature’s recovery and provide wider environmental benefits[1]”. The purpose of LNRS is to reverse the decline of biodiversity in England by driving action needed for nature to recover. The intention is that LNRS will provide the foundation for a national Nature Recovery Network - a network of wildlife-rich places and a major commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

The legislative basis for LNRS (including how they operate) will be established by the Environment Bill once this has been approved by Parliament (the Bill is currently at the Report stage in the House of Lords). The majority of the Environment Bill will apply in England only; this article shall only consider the proposals as they would apply in England.  There will be a general duty on all public authorities to have regard to the LNRS and certain bodies will be obliged to report every 5 years on what action they have taken.

The area covered by each LNRS will be determined by the Defra Secretary of State, who will also produce regulations and guidance setting out the process for the production and publication of a LNRS. The purpose of the consultation is to gather views as to the content of the regulations and guidance.

LNRS

Each LNRS shall:

  • set 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

It is currently envisaged that LNRS will together cover all of England (the precise boundaries for each LNRS are to be determined, but it may be along county lines). The Defra Secretary of State will appoint a “responsible authority” to lead production of each LNRS. The responsible authority will be a public body with knowledge of the local area and a democratic mandate.

In terms of increasing biodiversity, the Environment Bill requires that all developments deliver biodiversity net gain of at least 10%. To achieve this, developers will be required to provide or fund off-site habitat enhancement where mitigation cannot be sufficiently accommodated on-site. The intention is that the LNRS will propose appropriate sites for off-site improvements and the biodiversity metric will include a 15% uplift in units generated by the LNRS, thereby incentivising developers to make improvements in these areas.

LNRS may also be used to inform Local Plans and promote “nature-based solutions” to environmental issues such as flooding and climate change mitigation (for example, restoring peatlands to slow the flow of water in river systems to reduce flood risk).    In addition, the government is looking at future schemes that reward the delivery of environmental benefits (to replace agri-environment schemes created as part of the Common Agricultural Policy). The LNRS will play a role in identifying locations and priorities for funding under such schemes. The government also hopes that the creation process will lead to authorities identifying opportunities to increase access to nature.

Process for creating a LNRS

Following a number of pilot projects, a 6 step process is proposed for creation of a LNRS, comprising a statement of biodiversity priorities and 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 LNRS area (including key habitats and potential opportunities to create or improve them)
  • Step 3 – Identification of outcomes (creation / improvement of habitat) and grouping these by level of priority
  • Step 4 – Potential measures for creating or improving habitat to achieve the priority and other outcomes
  • Step 5 – Mapping suitable locations for delivery of the measures onto map of existing habitat

Consultation

The consultation closes 2 November 2021. The questions raised consider the details of the process to be undertaken, the outcomes and the period for review.  Of particular significance to landowners, the consultation asks:

  • whether individual landowners or managers should be able to decide that land they own or manage should not be identified by a LNRS as an area that could become of particular importance for biodiversity; and
  • whether anyone interested in the Strategy should be able to propose additional areas that could become of particular importance if these can be shown to be making a sufficient contribution to the overall objective.

Landowners likely to be affected by the above may therefore wish engage with the consultation at this stage.

The consultation can be accessed here.

[1] https://consult.defra.gov.uk/land-use/local-nature-recovery-strategies/

If you would like more information on Local Nature Recovery Strategies and the impacts on you and your business, please don't hesitate to contact myself or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact. For more information on our Planning services click here.

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