How Essex County Council has invested in the coordination and leadership of partnerships to deliver green infrastructure, shared outcomes, and funding opportunities.

Essex County Council facilitated collaboration between different organisations and partnerships to identify, target and accelerate Essex’s green infrastructure commitments.


Essex County Council facilitated collaboration between different organisations and partnerships to identify, target and accelerate Essex’s green infrastructure commitments.

Image of 5 volunteers leaning against a fence on a field
Essex Forest Initiative volunteers planting a new native hedgerow.



The acceleration of Essex County Council’s green infrastructure aspirations began in 2019 through growing political support. Their councillors, particularly the cabinet member for adult social care and health, urged for greater consideration of how green infrastructure could be used promote better social, economic, and environmental outcomes for its citizens.  

This political drive led to the development of the Essex Green Infrastructure Strategy which was launched in April 2020. Led by a Steering Group made up of members from the Essex Green Infrastructure Partnership, the strategy provided an overarching vision for delivery of green infrastructure across Essex.

The vision identified seven objectives under three core themes: place, people and funding, to bring a collaborative approach to nature recovery. It also proposed the introduction of special interest groups made up of experts from the environment, land use and academia to take forward and expand the key targets from the Green Infrastructure Strategy. The Strategy was awarded a Building with Nature – Excellent Accreditation.

Subsequently, Essex County Council launched the Climate Action Commission in May 2020 as a group of 30 members from a wide range of sectors and organisations to advise the council on how to tackle climate change more widely and consider how to improve green infrastructure throughout the county.


Timeline of Essex's action for nature recovery since April 2020

The project

The Commission’s Net Zero report, published in 2021, identified an action plan and recommendations to deliver Net Zero. Its recommendations incorporated outcomes from the Green Infrastructure strategy into measurable targets and includes:

  • 40% of all land in Essex will enhance biodiversity and the natural environment by creating natural green infrastructure by 2040;
  • 50% of farmland in Essex will adopt sustainable land stewardship practices by 2030
  • 30% greening of Essex’s towns, villages, and new developments by 2040 and;
  • The formation of two climate focus areas in Blackwater and Colne, and Harlow and Gilston.

Essex County Council welcomed the report and recognised the urgent need for action, both throughout the commitments in their corporate plan Everyone’s Essex and their Climate Action Plan.

New roles

The Climate Action Commission was also awarded £5 million by Essex County Council, £600,000 of this dedicated to Green Infrastructure. Part of this funding supported the employment two Green Infrastructure planning roles and a Green Infrastructure Delivery Officer to support the delivery of green infrastructure within Essex.

These new roles complement existing workstreams and projects at Essex County Council. Notably, the Essex Forest Initiative was set up in October 2019 and aims to plant £1m worth of trees within the next five years. Essex County Council employed a Forestry and Woodland Officer to meet this target whilst also collaborating with the new Green Infrastructure Delivery Officer role to apply for further funding opportunities and grants to promote nature recovery.

Local Nature Partnership

Since the publication of Essex County Council’s Green Infrastructure Strategy and subsequent reports from the Climate Action Commission, a Local Nature Partnership was established in March 2022 to bring together a range of Essex’s local organisations, businesses, and charities to work together to deliver the Climate Action Commission’s recommendations. In particular, the Local Nature Partnership intends to oversee the delivery of four key targets by 2030. Drawn from the Essex Climate Action Commission’s Net Zero Report, guidance from Natural England and the Essex Wildlife Trust, its targets include:

  1. 50% of farms to be sustainably managed
  2. Access to high quality green space for all
  3. An increase in the total area of Essex dedicated to natural green infrastructure from 14% to 25%
  4. One in four people taking action for nature recovery in Essex

To support the functioning of the Local Nature Partnership, Essex County Council employed a Local Nature Recovery Co-ordinator, who facilitated Essex County Council’s existing partnership with the Climate Action Commission to consider which stakeholders should be invited to join the partnership. This close collaboration proved beneficial to the Local Nature Partnership’s membership, which now includes a wide range of representatives across multiple sectors.

The board meets four times a year, with several sub-groups meeting more regularly. This includes task and finish groups specifically for Biodiversity Net Gain and Local Nature Recovery Strategies, and two longer term groups including agriculture and community engagement.

Challenges and solutions

Group participation:

One of the challenges Essex County Council faced was considering the most efficient method to facilitate the Local Nature Partnership to encourage participation and engagement amongst all its members.

This is important to ensure that all voices are heard, and decisions are made with engagement from a range of stakeholders, but this can be particularly difficult when there are large numbers of participants joining meetings and groups.

To resolve this, Essex’s Local Nature Recovery coordinator made the decision to publish a quarterly newsletter. Anyone can join the mailing list to receive updates on progress of the partnership. This has proved successful for ensuring that members of the working groups remain small enough for decisions to be made while external groups and individuals interested in the Local Nature Partnership and its developments can keep updated.

Long-term funding:

The fundamental challenge for the stakeholders involved with nature recovery in Essex County Council was to find ways to finance nature recovery projects and to deliver the targets of the Climate Action Commission.

The green infrastructure posts funded by the commission have proved invaluable to Essex County Council and have been pivotal in applying for and securing external funding for nature recovery projects. Notably, the Green Infrastructure Delivery Officer collaborated with Essex County Council’s Forestry and Woodland Officer, to secure funding worth over £1 million for numerous nature recovery projects across Essex.


Empowering landowners to support nature recovery

Essex County Council partnered with Essex and Suffolk Water, Essex County Council, Anglian Water, Environment Agency, and RSPB to create the North Essex Farm Cluster. The farm cluster brings together landholders and farmers to discuss farming for nature and collaborate on delivering nature-based projects.

Essex County Council, using funding from the Essex Climate Action Commission, and its partner organisations employed ‘cluster co-ordinators’ who organise regular meetings with cluster members, research funding opportunities and guide discussions on green infrastructure on private farmland. Spains Hall Estate hosts the farm cluster co-ordinators for the North Essex farm cluster.

Community Projects

To increase the number of people in Essex taking actions for nature recovery, the Climate Action Commission have emphasised the role of community-based solutions in supporting green infrastructure development. The Commission has already awarded grants of up to £20,000 to local groups and organisation to help deliver nature recovery projects through the Climate Action Challenge Fund.

Advice for other authorities

Early engagement with members

Essex County Council found that early collaboration between councillors and officers fostered a better opportunity for dialogue, communication, and learning. This ultimately created a greater political drive for the development of the Climate Action Commission and Local Nature Partnership.

Identify funding streams

When reflecting on their experiences delivering nature recovery Essex County Council advises other authorities looking to develop Green Infrastructure to begin thinking about ways to create long-term financial sustainability of nature recovery early in the process.