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Cumbria County Council: Chosen to pilot the national Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Cumbria was named as one of five pilot areas to receive a share of a £1 million fund from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in August 2020 to develop a draft Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) pilot. The LNRS will help bring a broad range of groups together - from farmers to businesses to local communities - to deliver priorities for nature recovery at a local and national level, and the pilots will help kick-start the creation of over a million acres of habitats for wildlife.

The challenge

Despite being a county renowned for its natural assets, in common with the rest of the UK, the wildlife of Cumbria has declined significantly over the last century. For example, farmland bird populations have seen a 48 per cent decline in the UK between 1970 and 2007. Even many Sites of Special Scientific Interest - areas of land which are protected for their wildlife by law - are considered to be in unfavourable condition. Fortunately, positive changes made by land managers means that some of these protected areas are now on the road to recovery.

The solution

Fortunately, with increased awareness, changes to policy and a range of environmental grants and incentive schemes, things are beginning to change for the better. However, the need for co-ordinated action is urgent. “Making Space for Nature” - a seminal report by Professor John Lawton, identified the key actions which need to be undertaken to reverse England’s biodiversity decline, the essence of which can be summarised by the phrase “more, bigger, better and joined”.

The LNRS has mapped out the current habitats across Cumbria and identified opportunities to restore, enhance and expand habitats to improve conditions for our natural flora and fauna.

The impact

The purpose of the LNRS is to enable nature recovery through the creation and restoration of habitats brought about by changes in land management. It is not a project plan of individual schemes but an agreed set of priorities for habitat management and creation across the county, with details of the actions needed to bring about these changes. The outcomes show that the co-benefits of improving our habitats are many, from carbon sequestration, to improved air and water quality, to providing better access to nature for communities - helping with mental and physical health.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Although Cumbria County Council is leading this work as the Responsible Authority, we have worked with a wide range of partnerships, organisations and individuals that have an interest in or influence on nature recovery. A Pilot Area Team has been set up to oversee delivery of this project. The Pilot Area Team comprises the nine local planning authorities and representatives from the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Natural England.

In addition, the Cumbria Pilot Area Team includes the three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Arnside and Silverdale; North Pennines and Solway Coast); Cumbria Local Nature Partnership; Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Continued close working will help the project to continue, with momentum for the benefit of our Cumbrian nature and environment.

Lessons learned

There is a real commitment and enthusiasm amongst the partners and stakeholders involved in this Pilot process so far to keep working together on a nature recovery strategy for Cumbria. It is envisaged that work will continue over the next 12 months on developing the Local Habitat Map and speaking with a wider group of stakeholders so that we can include everyone interested in contributing to the LNRS. We should then be in a good place to produce a final LNRS for Cumbria when it becomes a statutory requirement under the Environment Act in April 2022.


Hannah Girvan at [email protected]