The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act came into force on 1st Oct 2006. Section 40 requires all public bodies to have regard to biodiversity conservation when carrying out their functions. This is referred to as the ‘Biodiversity duty’
The aim of the biodiversity duty is ensure that the conservation of biodiversity becomes properly embedded in all relevant policies and decisions made by public authorities.
It has been strengthened in the Environment Act 2021
Biodiversity 2020 sets out a strategy
The National Planning Policy Framework (2012), revised in 2021, is a key document which local authorities have to take into account when preparing plans and taking decisions on planning applications.
Section 11 contains several policies targeted at enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity.
“Local planning authorities should: set out a strategic approach in their Local Plans, planning positively for the creation, protection, enhancement and management of networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure...”
The Lawton Report, Making Space for Nature (2010) summarised what needs to be done to make our ecological networks more resilient:
The 25 Year Environment Plan (2018) sets out to leave our environment in a better state than we found it and to pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future.
A key action point is establishing a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife,as well as providing greater public enjoyment of the countryside and other improvements.
National policies and guidance
Natural England published guidance in March 2020 on the design of nature networks and evidence for their implementation.
The Environment Act (2021) includes*
*Part 6 Nature and Biodiversity
Explanatory Notes (nb large pdf)
The Act makes explicit the requirement for a public authority to assess how it can take action to conserve and enhance biodiversity, and then take these actions.
It must consider the opportunities available to improve biodiversity,across the full range of its functions in a ‘proactive, strategic assessment and not just by considering each function in isolation as required by the original NERC Act section 40 duty.
The aim is to provide for the enhancement or improvement of biodiversity, not just its maintenance in its current state.
Environmental Land Management
Defra has published some details of three environmental land management schemes:
Sustainable Farming Incentive.
Eg: Soil, water and air quality, carbon sequestration, farmland biodiversity
Local Nature Recovery. Supporting nature in the farmed landscape. (Successor to Countryside Stewardship.)
Landscape Recovery: Land use change and habitat and ecosystem restoration