5 Protecting and improving the natural
environment: local delivery |
Local Nature Partnerships and
Nature Improvement Areas
72. The second chapter of the NEWP outlines methods
for facilitating local action to protect and improve nature, including
the establishment of new Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) and
Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). The Government has committed
pump-priming funding of £7.5 million for 12 initial NIA areas
and a further £1 million for the establishment of pilot LNPs.
73. The model for NIAs is based on the recommendations
in Professor Lawton's report Making Space for Nature.
In this he proposes that interconnections be formed between habitats
to create large-scale ecological networks.
Professor Lawton has welcomed the speed with which the Government
has moved to set up NIAs, which he helped to select.
The 12 pilots across England were announced in February 2012.
The pilots cover a range of habitats such as urban areas in Birmingham
and the Black Country, agricultural marshes in the Greater Thames
Area and farmland and former mining settlements in the Dearne
74. Witnesses, including environmental NGOs, welcomed
the NIA's landscape-scale focus since they would create connected
we heard concerns about how NIAs would operate in practice, with
many witnesses questioning the limited reach of the pilots. The
National Trust told us that many more NIAs would be needed to
"restore nature on any significant scale" and to avoid
creating a "two-tier countryside".
Wildlife and Countryside Link queried how local delivery would
be linked to national ambitions.
Some witnesses also questioned the selection method for the pilot
NIAs, with the UK Environmental Law Association criticising the
use of a competition as "bizarre" since NIAs should
be located in those areas that most needed attention.
75. We received evidence welcoming the establishment
of LNPs which are intended to be collaborations between interested
parties, from both the public and private sectors, that will work
together to protect and enhance the natural environment. However,
some witnesses were disappointed that the Partnerships were not
sufficiently linked to existing bodies such as Local Enterprise
Partnerships (LEPs), arguing that stronger links would raise the
profile of LNPs and better reflect the NEWP's emphasis on economic
as well as social and environmental benefits of the natural environment.
Other witnesses were concerned that LNPs might duplicate existing
work and divert funding from other projects,
which would put pressure on NGO and third sector budgets.
76. Some witnesses queried the lack of clearly defined
aims for NIAs and LNPs and wanted to see specific criteria established
for their success. The Woodland Trust recommended that these should
be set nationally and linked to key measurable ambitions within
the NEWP, such as the creation of 200,000 hectares of priority
77. We share concerns that NIAs and LNPs must have
clear criteria for measuring their success. We
recommend that Defra uses the pilot stage to clarify specific
objectives for Nature Improvement Areas and Local Nature Partnerships
and to set out how performance will be assessed. These should
link to the approaches set out in Professor Lawton's Making
Space for Nature reportincluding the reduction
in the number of threatened species, the improvement in the condition
of degraded areas, and the extent of the joining-up of protected
78. Making Space for Nature suggested that
total annual funding of the order of £600 million to £1.1
billion would be needed to ensure ecological resilience across
the UK. The NEWP
commits a total of £8.5 million of new public money to establishing
pilot approaches. This led to criticism from a number of witnesses,
including the RSPB which considered that there was "no convincing
funding strategy" for delivering the White Paper's aims.
The Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) argued that
there was a "mismatch" between NEWP aspirations and
the "diminishing availability of resources".
Furthermore, David Hill, Chief Executive of the Environment Bank,
told us that there would "never be the funds available"
to deliver the ambitions of the NEWP through the public sector.
However, the CPRE noted that since £1 billion represented
only 0.15% of government spending it should be feasible to deliver
Professor Lawton's recommended level of funding in the long term.
79. In the context of constraints on local authority
budgets, many witnesses were concerned about delivery of the NEWP's
aims at a local level. The Local Government Association (LGA)
considered that the £8.5 million was insufficient,
and the British Ecological Society told us that 46% of local authority
departments responsible for biodiversity faced budget reductions
proportionately greater than that for their organisation as a
whole. The Woodland
Trust recommended that local authorities should have protected
budgets for delivering NEWP aims.
80. We accept
that the Government is unlikely to commit significant additional
sums of public money to such schemes as Nature Improvement Areas
and Local Nature Partnerships. We recommend that Defra set out
how the various approaches in the White Paper, including payments
for ecosystems services, can be expected to contribute towards
the up to £1 billion needed each year to ensure ecological
resilience. We recommend that, having assessed the lessons from
the NIA and LNP pilots, Defra publish an action plan by the end
of 2014 with identified funding streams to be spent on expanding
81. We received evidence concerned about the lack
of planning powers applicable to NIAs and LNPs. The National Planning
Policy Framework (NPPF) published in April 2012 sets out the key
principles under which planning decisions are to be made. It contains
only minimal references to the NEWP approaches, including two
brief references to NIAs and two to LNPs.
Local plans will be able to reflect NIAs but the NPPF provides
planning authorities with no specific additional powers over determining
development within these areas.
82. The Landscape Institute told us that implementation
of much of the progressive thinking in the NEWP was dependent
upon the planning system. The Institute asserted that the draft
NPPF failed to put the natural environment at its heart, despite
government "advocating this approach in the NEWP and the
rich evidence base contained within the UK NEA".
Concerns over the impact of the revised planning framework extended
beyond the specific issue of NIAs and LNPs. There was a general
concern that the draft NPPF was too biased in favour of development,
and that this could have a detrimental impact, for example on
Witnesses' views on this were reflected in the statement by the
Woodland Trust that the draft NPPF was "heavily characterised
by the primacy of economic considerations above environmental
83. We finished taking evidence for this inquiry
before publication of the final version of the NPPF in April 2012.
That version appears to have addressed many of the concerns raised
with us about the draft version. Nevertheless, it is still too
early for any clear precedents to have been set in the interpretation
of the NPPF's provisions. In the absence of government guidance
on how the NPPF should be interpreted, there is continuing uncertainty
as to the level of protection that can be enshrined in local plans
for areas such as NIAs. The Department for Communities and Local
Government is reported to have said it is unlikely to provide
additional detail on implementation.
84. It is disappointing
that the opportunity was not taken to integrate the principles
and policies in the Natural Environment White Paper within the
National Planning Policy Framework. We recommend that the Department
for Communities and Local Government publish guidance as to how
planning bodies should take into account the benefits of the natural
environment when determining planning applications. In particular
this guidance should set out how planners and developers can protect
the environment in areas designated as Nature Improvement Areas.
85. The Government
must ensure that local planning bodies finalise their local plans
which should demonstrate a link between the principle of protecting
and enhancing nature and planning decisions.
86. Biodiversity offsetting is the principle of compensating
biodiversity losses at one geographical location, for example
due to development on a greenfield site, by conservation activities
that deliver measurable biodiversity benefits at another site.
This approach has been successfully applied in the USA and Australia.
In the USA biodiversity offsetting legislation has created biodiversity
markets worth some $3 billion a year.
87. The NEWP includes proposals for piloting voluntary
biodiversity offsetting schemes. These pilots are at an early
stage so we received little evidence on their likely impact. Many
witnesses wished to see more details about how such offsetting
schemes would operate.
The President of the CLA, while not rejecting the concept of offsetting,
thought that Defra should proceed "with caution".
David Hill, Chief Executive of the Environment Bank, told us that
his company was in the process of developing a tradeable offsets
scheme. He was
concerned about the voluntary nature of the White Paper's proposed
system since this would lead to a "disjointed approach"
and would not foster the type of market to allow trading of offset
credits. He estimated
that such a market could generate between £600 million and
£1.2 billion a year.
Other witnesses, however, welcomed the voluntary nature of the
proposals as they considered that mandatory biodiversity offsetting
could impose "potentially unwieldy bureaucracy" on industry
and in particular the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise sector.
88. Some witnesses opposed offsetting in principle.
The Natural History Museum noted that "some ancient habitats
are irreplaceable and cannot be offset".
The London Wildlife Trust considered that ecological assets would
be "more vulnerable" since mitigation of negative environmental
impacts would be carried out far from a development site.
Another concern was the risk that the scheme could lead to undue
geographic concentration of habitats and species which could render
them more susceptible to threats (such as disease, weather and
climate impacts) than they would be exposed to under a more geographically
89. The biodiversity
offsetting approaches set out in the White Paper have the potential
to deliver a considerable positive impact on the natural environment
providing that the first priority is that biodiversity is enhanced.
However, it is essential that Defra designs an approach that secures
long-term benefits from individual offset schemes so that habitats
are maintained for the future. We recommend that Defra instigates
regular monitoring to ensure that biodiversity benefits are being
delivered and that a sufficient geographical spread of offset
locations is maintained to minimise the impact of threats to species
106 Professor Sir John Lawton, Making Space for
Nature: a review of England's wildlife sites and ecological network,
December 2010 Back
As above, para 2.2.3 Back
"Twelve new havens for wildlife announced", Defra press
release, 27 February 2012 Back
As above Back
For example Wildlife and Countryside Link, the Campaign to Protect
Rural England and the National Trust Back
Ev 106 Back
Ev 114 Back
Ev w91 Back
Ev 89, Ev w108 Back
Ev 97 Back
Ev w18 Back
As above Back
Professor Sir John Lawton, Making Space for Nature: a review
of England's wildlife sites and ecological network, December
2010, (Executive Summary p ix) Back
Ev w116 Back
Q 192 Back
Q98, Ben Stafford Back
Ev 93 Back
Ev w11 Survey conducted by the Association of Local Government
Ecologists (ALGE) Back
Department for Communities and Local Government, National Planning
Policy Framework, March 2012, see paras 117 and 157 (on NIAs)
and 165 and 180 (on LNPs) Back
Ev w8 Back
Ev w17 Non-designated areas refer to areas not within those areas
given specific protections such as National Parks, Green Belt
areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest Back
Ev w17 Back
"No detailed answers on NPPF warns official", Planning
Resource, 4 May 2012 www.planningresource.co.uk Back
Ricardo Bayon, Biodiversity Banking: a primer, 2008 www.ecosystemmarketplace.com Back
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Farming and Wildlife
Advisory Group and Linking Environment and Farming told us that
the sourcing of additional income through biodiversity offsets
could bring serious potential threats from development. Ev w22
Q 128, Harry Cotterell Back
Q 198 Back
Qq 190, 191 Back
Q 194 Back
Ev 125 Back
Ev w54 Back
Ev w22 Back