Nature recovery for local authorities

This is the front page for the PAS Nature Recovery Network project funded by Natural England. The project is supporting local authorities to get ready for delivering the Nature Recovery Network and Local Nature Recovery Strategies and sharing approaches and experience to date.

Overview of PAS nature recovery resources


This webpage provides information on:

  • The PAS Nature Recovery Network project including key outputs and timescales.
  • Why nature recovery is so important and what this means for local authorities including new duties introduced by the Environment Act 2021?
  • Examples of existing nature recovery activities that local authorities are already delivering and what more can be done.
  • The type of support that Natural England is providing to local authorities to prepare for Local Nature Recovery Strategies and deliver the Nature Recovery Network.

Links to further content are included in the pages below and feedback is welcomed on this page. 

Introduction to the PAS Nature Recovery Network project

From August 2022 to end March 2023, Natural England commissioned PAS to lead on a project engaging with local authorities to raise awareness and understanding on what the Nature Recovery Network (NRN) is and how it can be delivered to help to address both the climate change and the biodiversity crisis and the challenges faced with public health and wellbeing.  

This project is now in Phase 2 running from April 2023 to end March 2024, which builds on the engagement and lessons of Phase 1 – ensuring continued support and engagement with local authorities as mandatory Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements are rolled out this year.  As well as supporting NRN delivery and LNRS implementation, it will also incorporate priorities from Natural England's Strategic Plans for Places programme.

The key objective for this project is to work with local authorities including Combined Authorities, County, Unitary, Metropolitan and District Councils (not including Parish and Town Councils) to:

  • Explain and communicate to local authorities what the Nature Recovery Network is and how it can be delivered (how the Nature Recovery Network will help to address climate change, biodiversity loss and public health and wellbeing).
  • Develop and share ideas/case studies/examples of local authorities delivering nature recovery, how this can support their wider objectives and responsibilities under LNRS as well as national NRN ambitions including 30x30 commitments, especially in relation to to integrating actions to address biodiversity loss and climate change crisis and in meeting multiple objectives and statutory duties (such as enhanced NERC duties).
  • To explore with local authorities where and how to best shape supporting policy within relevant strategic plans to best support nature recovery that in turn serves a range of local authority needs.
  • Listen to local authorities and feedback issues to the NRN management group and wider Defra Group and DLUHC colleagues.
  • Develop and maintain strong external networks and partnerships that are of value to the LGA.

In addition to the outputs produced as part of Phase 1 resources above the following outputs are proposed as part of Phase 2:

Initial key outputs (April to June 2023):

  • Update PAS NRN project webpages and articles featured in PAS newsletters and social media (Ongoing) 
  • Hold series of webinars and workshops targeted at the needs of local planning authorities, responsible authorities and supporting authorities (supporting Defra/ADEPT regional workshops including producing FAQs) (April to May 2023)
  • Launch of local authority biodiversity and nature recovery case studies (April 2023)
  • Production of local authority wishlist of questions to inform DLUHC guidance and (April 2023)

Project Development (April – June 2023)

Further project development will take place including:

  • A list of project outputs will be worked up relevant to the needs of local planning authorities, responsible authorities and supporting authorities (May to June 2023)
  • This list will be checked with the audience and delivery of top priorities agreed (May to June 2023)
  • Agree detailed plan for year (June 2023)

What is nature recovery and why is it so important?

The natural environment has an innate value that means we have a strong responsibility to protect it. Its value to us is also clearer than ever: It is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, is the foundation of a productive economy and provides us with attractive neighbourhoods and access to green spaces we can enjoy.

Despite this the natural environment faces urgent and significant challenges, with the UK being one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. By tackling the twin biodiversity and climate emergencies, we will help nature recover and, at the same time, secure health and economic benefits from an enhanced natural environment, for wildlife, for people and for our economy.

Key publications include:
  • State of Nature report (2019) suggests there has been a 13% decline in the average abundance of wildlife in the UK since the 1970s.
  • The ‘Bigger, Better, More and Joined-up’ principles of the Lawton Report (2010) - ‘Making Space for Nature’ - should be followed to help rebuild nature.
  • The Dasgupta Review 2021 makes explicit that long term economic prosperity is dependent on a healthy natural environment.  

National policy and legislation

The UK government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP23) reviews and updates the 25 Year Environment Plan and places it on a statutory footing. It provides a delivery plan for the 25YEP framework and vision, setting out what the UK will do to improve the environment, within a generation.

The Plan’s apex goal is to improve nature. This includes the target to protect 30% of our land and sea for nature through the Nature Recovery Network by 2030 and restoring or creating more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitats outside protected sites by 2042. It also seeks to halt the decline in species abundance by the end of 2030 increasing it above 2022 levels by 2042.

The ambition is to achieve high quality, accessible, natural spaces with increased biodiversity close to where people live and work, with a focus around the equal distribution of environmental benefits and resources to all. EIP23 makes a commitment that everyone should live within 15 minutes’ walk of a green or blue space.

The Environment Act 2021 introduced a number of new duties for local authorities which are of relevance to nature recovery and biodiversity including:

  • All planning permissions granted in England (with a few exemptions) will have to deliver at least 10% biodiversity net gain from Nov 2023 (S98-101)
  • Enhanced duty for LAs to conserve and enhance biodiversity (S102) and report on their actions (S103)
  • LPAs will need to comply with the above duty and have regard to the Local Nature Recovery Strategy in local planning policy and decisions (S102).
  • Responsible authorities appointed by the Secretary of State (S105) to lead the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS), working with a broad range of stakeholders. 

What is the Nature Recovery Network?

The Nature Recovery Network is a single, national ecological network of wildlife-rich places. Central to the government’s apex goal of improving nature, it benefits people and wildlife by increasing, improving and joining-up these places across England, stretching from our cities to countryside, mountains to coast.

Delivery of the NRN takes us from protection to active restoration of the natural world. It helps us to deal with three of the biggest challenges we face: biodiversity loss, climate change and public health. Through our collective work to create the NRN, we are meeting our Environment Act 2021 and Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 targets to:

  • Protect and effectively manage 30% of our land and sea for nature by 2030
  • Halt the decline in species abundance by 2030, and then increase abundance by at least 10% to exceed 2022 levels by 2042
  • Restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat, outside of protected sites, by 2042.
  • Restore or create 140,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitats outside protected sites by 2028, compared to 2022 levels
  • Improve the Red List Index for England for species extinction by 2042 compared to 2022 levels
  • Ensure all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) have an up-to-date condition assessment; and for 50% of SSSIs to have actions on track to achieve favourable condition by 31 January 2028
  • Increase tree canopy and woodland cover from 14.5% to 16.5% of total land area in England by 2050, with a new interim target to increase this by 0.26% (equivalent to 34,000 hectares) by 31 January 2028, in line with the trajectory required to achieve the long-term target
  • Ensure 70% of designated features in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are in favourable condition by 2042 with the remainder in recovering condition, with a new interim target of 48% of designated features to be in favourable condition by 31 January 2028, in line with the trajectory required to achieve the long-term target
  • Achieve a range of environmental, economic, and social benefits, such as carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination, and recreation.

How is the Nature Recovery Network being delivered?

The Nature Recovery Network is being delivered through:

  • Mapping and data - specifically Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) which will play a major role in identifying and mapping the best locations to create, enhance and restore nature and provide wider environmental benefits, helping to shape the Nature Recovery Network and meet government’s wider commitments and targets. Introduced by the Environment Act 2021, these strategies will be produced at a county level by responsible authorities (Combined Authorities, County and Unitary Councils).
  • Collaboration – Develop or enhance strong partnerships to deliver action on the ground including government, landowners and managers, business, local communities, conservation organisations, local authorities and many more.
  • Integration of policies and funding streams with government goals for nature - to incentivise and maximise opportunities for nature recovery and secure new funding  (public and private).  This includes effective application of policies such as biodiversity net gain and new farming incentives.

How are local authorities already delivering nature recovery activities?

Local authorities are already working on a range of activity which aligns with the delivery of the Nature Recovery Network, including:

  • Mapping and data - mapping natural assets and the emerging Nature Recovery Network.  This includes highlighting potential locations for creating new areas of habitat as well as where to better manage the existing areas we already have for wildlife.
  • Local policy and strategy – declaring a biodiversity emergency and setting out the vision, policies and practical actions needed to restore declining species and habitats.  Some local authorities have started thinking about nature recovery in their area in anticipation of Local Nature Recovery Strategy production. There is useful preparation that can be done now.
  • Partnerships – a growing number of partnerships have already been established to drive forward nature recovery priorities and projects including Local Nature Partnerships and Catchment Partnerships. In the case of Local Nature Partnerships a number of local authorities host and coordinate these.
  • Local delivery – projects and plans that put nature recovery at the heart of service delivery. This includes investing in tree planting, working with farm clusters and landscape partnerships, delivering pollinator projects to schools and parish councils.
  • Funding – successfully securing funding for the delivery of nature recovery projects. Also, supporting the development of funding models that will generate repayable investment from a range of ecosystem services channelling more private investment into nature.

What more can be done by local authorities?

Collaborative action is required to create more bigger better, joined up wildlife rich places that achieve benefits for nature, people and climate including:

  • Policy and strategy (including mapping and data) – production of Local Nature Recovery Strategies by responsible authorities to provide a locally owned foundation that develops and underpins the Nature Recovery Network; identifying the places which, once action has been taken on the ground, will enable the Network to grow over time.  Action will help achieve wider environmental objectives and contribute to green economic recovery objectives.
  • Partnership working - continue to work with and build upon existing regional partnerships such as Local Nature Partnerships and Catchment Partnerships and identify new partnerships where they are needed to drive forward priority activities.  Action for nature recovery will need to happen at a landscape scale and this means taking action across local authorities, boundaries and engaging with partners from a range of sectors.  Local authorities have a unique ability to work in this space and help convene others, for example, councillors can make links to local communities, farmers, landowners, etc.
  • Local delivery – drive forward local delivery with partners, supporting existing local partnerships and encourage new ones where needed to help deliver the network and engage in the Local Nature Recovery Strategy process.  Encourage and develop a vision that delivers more projects at a landscape scale.
  • Funding – utilise existing and new funding streams and explore opportunities to blend private, public and voluntary sector resources. This includes locking objectives for nature into long-term public funding schemes such as biodiversity net gain and agri-environment schemes that reward environmental benefits.  

What type of support is available from Natural England?

A range of support is available from Natural England including:

  • Mapping and dataAccess to evidence and Technical information notes, including key documents such as Nature Networks and the Climate Change Adaptation Manual.
  • Policy and strategy - Natural England have recruited Nature Recovery Network and Local Nature Recovery Strategy leads across area teams trained to support delivery.  Please contact your local area office to find out who your local delivery lead is.
  • Partnerships - launched in November 2020, the Nature Recovery Network Delivery Partnership is a broad network of cross-sectoral organisations who work together to help deliver the Nature Recovery Network. They are supported by the Partnership Management Group.  Organisations within any sector who are willing to commit to nature’s recovery can join this partnership. This includes private business, charities and local authorities.   To express an interest in becoming a Nature Recovery Network Delivery Partner, email Natural England’s Nature Recovery Network Partnership Team. The Partnership Management Group is composed of national sectoral representatives who may be able to unlock issues at a local level.
  • The Responsible Authority Network - A forum for enhancing capability and capacity within and across Responsible Authorities to assist in preparing high-quality LNRSs.


  • Enable access and sharing of information, ideas, and best practice.
  • Provide a means for flagging and supporting one another on common issues.
  • Facilitate collaboration and join-up across LNRS boundaries​.
  • Ensure compliance and consistency of approach on national policy.  ​
  • Present a unified/single voice to external partners, NGOs and other interested groups.​

This involves:

  • National network meetings – deep dives and best practice workshops.
  • Regional network meetings – chaired by NE senior advisers.
  • Local delivery - Natural England is working with partners across the country to deliver hundreds of projects for nature at different scales. To find out more, contact your local Natural England Nature Recovery Network area lead.
  • Funding - there are a range of existing and new funding streams available to support delivery of nature recovery projects at different scales including the Nature for Climate Fund, Existing Countryside Stewardship Schemes, Biodiversity Net Gain, Funding in Protected Landscapes and Landscape Recovery Pilots. Your local Natural England Nature Recovery Network area lead can advise on the latest available funding.

Current practice – who is doing what and how can we learn?

Case studies showcasing approaches and experience from local authorities delivering nature recovery activities to support the Nature Recovery Network are being developed and uploaded to this page as the project progresses.

We will also be including useful links signposting to work that local authorities are already delivering which will be updated on a rolling basis. Were interested in featuring other work that is being delivered so please contact [email protected].