106. Under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the Agency
is the lead organisation responsible for saltmarsh and mudflat
Habitat Action Plans, while English Nature (and, in due course,
Natural England) is the lead on wetland Habitat Action Plans (that
is, fens, bogs, grazing marsh and reedbeds).
The two organisations have an annual target for creating 200 hectares
of new saltmarsh, mudflat and other wetland habitats, through
the Agency's flood risk management work.
107. We asked both sets of witnesses whether the
division of responsibilities for Habitat Action Plans could cause
confusion or duplication of effort. The Natural England Partnership
believed it was important that two organisations had responsibility
because of the wide range of Action Plans for species and habitats.
It was also "logical" for the Agency to have lead responsibility
for saltmarsh and mudflat Habitat Action Plans because of its
work on flood and coastal defence.
Nevertheless, it stressed that each organisation had an important
role to play on Action Plans led by the other organisation. For
example, SSSIs often included a variety of habitats, and therefore
required close collaboration between the Agency and English Nature.
The Natural England Partnership believed this kind of joint working
was "not an overlap, not a duplication [but] how we do our
was important was that each Biodiversity Action Plan Group consisted
of "the right constituent parts", and that the respective
lead organisation in each case should "provide the lead and
the vision necessary for the constituent parts to then do what
is necessary within each of those organisations".
108. The Agency recognised that the Biodiversity
Action Plan process was "complicated".
However, it believed that giving Natural England direct responsibility
for all 45 Habitat Action Plans "would not improve performance".
It explained that delivery would still depend on actions by the
operational organisation which had the biggest influence on specific
habitatswith the Agency's influence on issues of water
quality, quantity and flood risk management, it followed that
it should lead on wetland habitats.
The Agency told us that:
The current arrangement, whereby lead responsibility
reflects the influence of operating authorities such as [the Agency],
increases the chances of action being delivered, because there
is a corporate responsibility to deliver a Government target.
109. The Minister believed it was "inevitable"
that a body like the Agencywith responsibilities for air,
land, water, pollution and flood defencewould have "implications
in relation to biodiversity".
He also believed it was inevitable that overlaps would sometimes
occur, regardless of the structure of government.
He stressed the fact, however, that the Agency had been developing
Memoranda of Understanding with Natural England and the Forestry
Commission where such overlaps occurred.
110. The current arrangement between the Agency
and English Naturesoon to be Natural Englandin relation
to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan is complicated. Each organisation
has lead responsibility for certain Habitat Action Plans, depending
on its type. However, the two organisations are often required
to work together on specific Habitat Action Plans, as can occur
with the restoration of SSSIs. Evidence suggests that all the
parties involved believe that the current arrangement is the most
logical one and, more importantly, that it is delivering results.
We believe that rules and regulations defining responsibilities
and boundaries are important, but ultimately it is the people
involved in these collaborations that are vital. Provided the
Agency and Natural England continue to work closelywith
the lead organisation for each Biodiversity Action Plan Group
providing the necessary lead and visionand deliver results
in this area, we are satisfied that the present arrangements should