LGA submission to DEFRA consultation on Local Nature Recovery Strategies: how to prepare and what to include, 2 November 2021

The LGA welcomes the increased focus on Local Nature Recovery and reversing the decline of biodiversity as set out in the Environment Bill, but government needs to consider all the measures to enhance nature, set out in the Environment Bill holistically, so as not to miss opportunities of efficiency.


Summary

1. About the Local Government Association (LGA)

1.1 The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales. 

1.2 Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

2. Summary

2.1The LGA welcomes the increased focus on Local Nature Recovery and reversing the decline of biodiversity as set out in the Environment Bill. Ninety-four per cent of residents polled by the Local Government Association wants to see increased biodiversity in their area, including the planting of trees and protection of green spaces.

2.2 Councils are strong on ground up activity on biodiversity and would like to do more on biodiversity. They want to make a success of the measures in the Environment Bill but need to be properly resourced to carry out the new responsibilities on nature.

2.3 We welcome governments intention to provide New Burdens funding to adequately resource councils to carry out the new responsibilities, but government needs to consider all the measures to enhance nature, set out in the Environment Bill holistically, so as not to miss opportunities of efficiency. Resourcing the development of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) is only one part of the picture. Managing the implementation through the planning process, supporting the delivery of Biodiversity Net Gain and ensuring they create a resilient Nature Recovery Network are activities that are integral to the success implementation of a LNRS and need to be resourced adequately.

 
 

Consultation questions

  1. Would you like your response to be confidential
    No
     
  2. What is your name
    Andrew Richmond
     
  3. What is your email address
    Andrew.richmond@local.gov.uk
     
  4. What is your organisation
    Local Government Association

The following consultation questions will be separated into different topics, which you can scroll through on the left hand side of the webpage. Any answers to questions that have been ticked, will be followed by [TICK]

Achieving collaboration

5. Which of the groups listed below do you consider essential for the preparation of a Local Nature Recovery Strategies?

  • Local authority(s) other than the “responsible authority” where the Strategy covers more than one Local Authority area [TICK]
  • Local authorities adjacent to the Strategy areas. [TICK]
  • Local Nature Partnership(s), where active and geographically aligned [TICK]
  • Natural England [TICK]
  • The Environment Agency [TICK]
  • The Forestry Commission
  • Other public bodies e.g., Highways England
  • Environmental non-governmental organisations active in the Strategy area [TICK]
  • National Park Authority(s), where present in the Strategy area and if not the “responsible authority” [TICK]
  • Area of Outstanding National Beauty organisation(s), where present in the Strategy area [TICK]
  • Local Records Centre(s), where separate from any of the other groups listed
  • Local farming, forestry and landowning groups
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships
  • Utilities providers, such as water companies
  • Other local business representative bodies
  • Individual landowners and land managers (including farmers, both landowners and tenants)
  • Individual businesses
  • Members of the public
  • Don’t Know [Tick all that apply]

6. Are there any organisations not listed above whose involvement you consider essential?

7. Do you think that additional support should be provided to farmers, landowners and managers the land management sector to facilitate their involvement with the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies?

8. If information on other types of local wildlife sites within a Local Nature Recovery Strategy area is not held by the responsible authority, do you think that if another Local Authority owns the information, they should be obliged to provide it to them?

9. Are you aware of specific locally held information that would make an important contribution to the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies that you do not believe would be made available without a requirement to do so?

10. How do you think neighbouring Local Nature Recovery Strategy responsible authorities should be required to work together?

  • Required to inform neighbouring responsible authorities of their progress in preparing their Strategy
  • Required to give information to neighbouring responsible authorities that would help them prepare their Strategy
  • Required to collaborate when setting objectives for areas close to boundaries
  • Left to local discretion [TICK]  
  • Other [If other, please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

11. Should draft Local Nature Recovery Strategies be subject to a local public consultation prior to publication?

12. Should individual landowners or managers be able to decide that land they own or manage should not be identified by a Local Nature Recovery Strategy as an area that could become of particular importance for biodiversity?

13. Should anyone interested in the Strategy 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 of the Strategy?

Answer to questions 6 -13

The preparation and production of Local Nature Recovery Strategies will require numerous bodies to work together but in the case of each LNRS, the exact bodies to be included in the development should be determined by the Responsible Authority for that LNRS. These bodies will vary depending on the geographic location of the LNRS but should always include the local authorities covered by the strategy and neighbouring local authorities as well as Local Nature Partnerships and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where aligned, and Natural England.

The five Defra funded Local Nature Recovery Strategy pilots highlighted the importance of partnership working and in the case of Cumbria especially the need to work closely with the district councils in the plan area. Early engagement and collaboration between districts and counties is going to be essential for the successful delivery of LNRS’s across England and therefore government needs to consider this ahead of implementation.

Local authorities know their area best and have built up relationships with their residents, landowners, land managers, special interest groups and non-government organisations so specifying who should be considered essential in the preparation of local nature recovery strategies is unnecessary and counterproductive.

Additional support will be required for farmers, landowners, and the land management sector due the diversity and nature of their core business interests. Government will need to provide resources, including guidance, to facilitate this support either directly through Natural England or through the appropriate local authorities.

Information on local nature should not be commoditised and should be made available on public platforms. Where costs have been incurred in the process of collection, a route to compensation should be developed but profiteering should be discouraged at all costs.

Whether Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be subject to public consultation prior to publication really depends on their role in the planning system. Government needs to decide the role of LNRSs in the planning system as a matter of urgency. Local authorities are well versed in public consultation but the prominence of the LNRS in the planning framework would shape the consultation process and timeline. Ensuring effective alignment of LNRSs with Local Plans, which make critical decisions on land use, would provide strategic predictability to build location-specific improvements in at the design stage of developments.    

Achieving consistency and resolving disagreements

14. How prescriptive do you think regulations made under clause 101 should be in setting out how the responsible authority should work with local partners?

  • Setting broad principles only [TICK]
  • Setting broad principles and specific requirements on who to engage or how
  • A standardised process of who to engage and how
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

15. Do you think that regulations made under clause 101 should establish a mechanism for resolving disputes in the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies? [Yes/No/Don’t know]

16. If you believe that regulations made under clause 101 should establish a mechanism for resolving disputes in the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, which of the following bodies do you think should be able to raise a dispute (including on behalf of others)?

  • Local Authorities within the Strategy area who are not the responsible authority
  • Natural England
  • Responsible Authorities for neighbouring Strategy areas
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

17. Which of the following do you think might be reasonable grounds for raising a dispute about the Local Nature Recovery Strategy preparation process?

  • Not adequately involving relevant specific groups
  • Slow/no progress
  • Lack of transparency
  • Legal requirements not being followed
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

18. At which points in the preparation of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy do you think it should be possible to escalate procedural disputes for external consideration?

  • Before finalisation of the Strategy priorities
  • Before a potential public consultation on the draft Strategy
  • If the responsible authority does not respond within a reasonable timeframe to being informed of concerns
  • At any time
  • There should not be a process for external consideration
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

19. Do you think that Local Nature Recovery Strategies should also be “signed off” by a body other than the responsible authority before they can be published?

  • No
  • Yes – instead of a mechanism for resolving disputes in the preparation process
  • Yes – as well as a mechanism for resolving disputes in the preparation process
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

20. If so, which bodies should be given sign-off responsibility?

  • Other Local Authorities in the Strategy area
  • Natural England
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

21. On what grounds could a body refuse to sign-off a Local Nature Recovery Strategy?

  • Disagreement about overall priorities
  • Disagreement about specific priorities
  • Disagreement about potential measures
  • Disagreement about the inclusion or exclusion of specific “areas of potential importance”
  • On any reasonable grounds
  • Only the “responsible authority” should be required to sign-off the Strategy
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

22. Should the Defra Secretary of State be able to appoint a separate body to consider disputes in the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, and if so, which body or bodies?

  • It should not be possible for a separate body to be appointed
  • Natural England
  • Planning inspectorate
  • Whichever body the Secretary of State considers appropriate
  • The responsible authority for a different Local Nature Recovery Strategy
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

23. In resolving disputes in the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies should the Secretary of State be able to:

  • Require the responsible authority to repeat particular parts of the preparation process
  • Require the responsible authority to make specific changes to their Local Nature Recovery Strategy
  • Approve the Local Nature Recovery Strategy with or without changes.
  • Something else [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

Answer to questions 15 to 23

It isn’t possible to meaningfully respond to questions about dispute resolution until Government has informed us of the role of LNRS's in the planning system. Local authorities need clarity on the role of Local Nature Recovery Strategies in the planning framework as soon as possible. The role of LNRS’s in the planning framework not only determines how LNRS’s are produced, but also determines what should and shouldn’t be included in Local Plans.

Whether or not Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be “signed off” by a body other than the responsible authority also depends on their position in the planning system. If the LNRS is a strategy that sits within the Local Plan, then the Planning Inspectorate would have a role as part of the Local Plan examination process. If it is a standalone document then, so long as the recommended levels of partnership working have been met, there is no reason why a separate body would need to sign off the strategy before publication.

Defra Secretary of State should be able to appoint a separate body to consider disputes but until government has set out where LNRS's sit within or alongside the planning framework, it isn't possible to suggest who this body or bodies should be and how government should resolve disputes. Any dispute resolution procedures put in place should be proportionate. If a dispute resolution system were to be put in place, the trigger for such a dispute to be considered would need to be meaningful. Creating a Nature Recovery Network made of around 50 Local Nature Recovery Strategies, covering the entire nation is undoubtably going to result in a few disputes. 

We will work with the Government to ensure that the Environment Bill and Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) is effective in addressing the concerns of communities. The OEP will have enforcement functions over public authorities who fail to comply with environmental law. It will be essential that the OEP board contains knowledge, and direct experience of, local government as one of the key public authorities it will work with.

 

Publication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies

24. Do you think that each local habitat map should adopt the same data standards and be published in the same format to facilitate national collation?

25. If yes, how should this level of consistency be established?

  • Advice from Natural England
  • Creation of standard templates
  • Specified in regulations made under clause 101
  • By consensus amongst responsible authorities
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

26. Do you think that each statement of biodiversity priorities should also be published in a similar format?

  • The format should be the same
  • There should be some specific requirements, but the responsible authority should keep some discretion over presentation
  • The responsible authority should be able to decide how they present their Strategy so long as it meets legal requirements
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

27. Do you think that all Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be published together on a single national website as well as being published locally by the responsible authority? [Yes/No/Don’t know]

28. Do you think that a published Local Nature Recovery Strategy should:

  • Only be changed once the Secretary of State has been notified
  • Only be changed with the Secretary of State’s permission
  • Not be changed unless it’s part of a scheduled review process
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

Answers to questions 24 – 28

There does need to be some level of consistency in data standards, but this should be agreed by the responsible authorities with support and advice from Natural England. The value of LNRS’s is their ability to support Local Authorities in plan making but also map together to support the Nature Recovery Network (NRN). They need to be fit for both purpose and therefore the responsible authorities need to agree the data standards between themselves.

Whether or not all LNRSs are published together on the single national website, as well as published locally, depends on how the Nature Recovery Network will be presented. If the ambition is for the NRN to be a sum of all LNRSs then they will need to be published together on a single national website. If the NRN is to be a summary of the LNRSs, then individual LNRSs can be published locally with links on the single national website.

Review and republication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies

29. Do you think that all Local Nature Recovery Strategies across England should be reviewed and republished at similar times, or should there be local discretion to decide when is the best time?

  • • Set nationally
  • • Decided locally [TICK]
  • • Don’t know [Tick one]

The decision on when to review and refresh a Local Nature Recovery Strategy needs to be a local one. Regardless of whether Government allocates LRNS’s a role in the planning framework, the consideration of Local Plans and the Local Plan review cycle will need to be taken into account when determining the best time to review and refresh the LNRS.

 

Information to be included in a Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Statement of biodiversity priorities

30. If you do think all Local Nature Recovery Strategies should be reviewed and republished at the same time, do you think that this should happen to a fixed cycle?

  • There should be a regular fixed period between reviews
  • A maximum period of time between reviews should be set
  • A minimum period of time between reviews should be set
  • A maximum and a minimum period of time between reviews should be set
  • The Defra Secretary of State should be able to decide
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

Not applicable

31. Do you think that all responsible authorities should take a consistent approach to describing the biodiversity in their Strategy area?

32. If yes, do you have a preference as to how sub-areas based on similarities in biodiversity should be identified?

  • No preference
  • Responsible authorities should be able to decide [TICK]
  • National Character Areas
  • River catchments
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

 

Answers to questions 31-32

All responsible authorities should take a consistent approach to describing biodiversity in their Strategy area and sub-areas based on similarities in biodiversity should be identified by the Responsible Authorities. Natural England is well placed to facilitate a consistent approach across England whilst ensuring and recognising local differences.

33. To ensure that the statement of biodiversity priorities provides an accurate and useful description of the Strategy area that can inform the setting of realistic and appropriate priorities, what else should the description consider in addition to describing existing biodiversity?

  • Climate change scenarios
  • How land use/ habitat distribution has changed over time
  • Anticipated future pressures on land use (e.g., broad indications of housing and infrastructure need)
  • Environmental issues in the Strategy area that might be addressed through nature-based solutions
  • Existing significant nature or environment projects (e.g., landscape scale work)
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

34. How should the statement of biodiversity priorities describe opportunities for recovering or enhancing biodiversity without mapping them?

  • Identify particular rarer habitats/species that the strategy area is suitable for supporting
  • Assess the potential to contribute to national priorities for nature recovery
  • Describe the relative opportunity for creating more areas of key habitats as well as making them bigger, better and joined up
  • Indicate broad areas where creating improving habitat may be more achievable
  • Assess the potential for use of nature-based solutions
  • However, the responsible authority finds most useful
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

35. Do you think that all Local Nature Recovery Strategies should follow the same priority setting process or that each responsible authority should decide for themselves how priorities should be set?

  • All Strategies should follow the same priority setting process
  • Strategies should follow the same high-level principles but with local discretion
  • Strategies should decide for themselves how to prioritise
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

36. How should national environmental priorities be reflected when setting Local Nature Recovery Strategy priorities?

  • National priorities should be advisory
  • Responsible authorities should show how they have considered national priorities
  • Local priorities should follow a consistent nationally set structure
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

37. Should Local Nature Recovery Strategies identify only those outcomes for nature recovery and environmental improvement that are of priority or also include those that are positive but of lower priority?

  • List only priorities
  • List priorities and other relevant lower priority outcomes
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

38. How should priorities identified in other environmental spatial plans in the Strategy area be incorporated into the Local Nature Recovery Strategy?

  • Considered and prioritised alongside other outcomes
  • Incorporated directly
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

39. Do you think that the Local Nature Recovery Strategy should include potential measures for conserving and enhancing biodiversity and making wider environmental improvements that cannot be mapped as well as those that can?

  • Yes both
  • No, only those that can be mapped
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

40. Should there be a standard list of potential measures for responsible authorities to choose from?

  • No – responsible authorities should have free choice
  • There should be a list of suggestions
  • There should be a core list which the responsible authority can add to
  • Responsible authorities should only be able to choose measures included on a national list
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

 

Answers to questions 33 – 40

Biodiversity priorities will vary in some degree across the authorities in England it is important that the process of LNRS production does not get in the way of achieving the objective of the LNRSs which is to help the public, private and voluntary sectors work more effectively together for nature’s recovery. Consistency in describing and identifying biodiversity and biodiversity priorities is important and should be agreed nationally at the responsible authority level.

Natural England is well placed to facilitate and judicate the discussion and ensure that national environmental priorities are reflected however, local ownership is integral to success. Local councils know their priorities and those of their neighbouring authorities. Facilitating a process by which local decision making and collaboration creates a national network of LNRS’s will result in a Nature Recovery Network that is valuable both locally and nationally.

Local habitat map

41. What sort of areas, outside of national conservation and local wildlife sites, might a responsible authority reasonably consider to be of particular importance for biodiversity?

  • Ancient woodlands
  • Flower rich meadows
  • Priority habitats in good condition
  • Areas used for feeding or resting by animals or birds from a nearby national conservation site
  • Any areas the responsible authority chooses [TICK]
  • None
  • Other [please specify]
  • Don’t know [Tick all that apply]

42. Should all responsible authorities follow a standardised process for mapping potential measures to identify areas that could become of particular importance for biodiversity or other environmental benefits?

43. Do you think that all responsible authorities should seek to identify a similar proportion of their strategy area as areas that could become of particular importance for biodiversity or wider environmental outcomes?

  • Yes, there should be a set percentage each responsible authority should identify
  • No, this should not be set and decided locally
  • Don’t know [Tick one]

44. Do you think that when Strategies are reviewed and republished, they should map where appropriate action has been taken to make areas of increasing importance for biodiversity?

Answers to questions 41 – 44

Like our previous answers, when it comes to local habitat mapping, decisions on the types of areas to be included, the process and the proportion of the strategy area that could become of particular importance for biodiversity should be decided by local authorities and agreed collaboratively at a pan national level. Natural England is well placed to convene and manage the process but with decisions being made locally in partnership with Natural England.