Agenda item

Local Nature Recovery Strategy and Responsible Authority Status.


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Environment and Transport which advised of the new statutory duty that had been placed on local government in relation to Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS), and of the appointment of Leicestershire County Council as the ‘responsible authority’ for the LNRS that would cover Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (LLR). A copy of the report, marked ‘Agenda Item 11’, is filed with these minutes.


In presenting the report the Director clarified that the expected formal letter from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) notifying that Leicestershire County Council was to be the responsible authority for LLR had not yet been received. Nevertheless, it was not expected that there would be any changes to the proposals and the County Council had already begun carrying out the required work including starting the process for recruiting a project manager.


Arising from discussions the following points were noted:


(i)           As the responsible authority duty was set out in the Environment Act 2021 it could be enforced and legal action could be taken against a local authority for not complying with the duty. 


(ii)         So far DEFRA had only provided funding for the first two years for the development of the LNRS. Details were awaited from DEFRA regarding what further funding would be provided. When the County Council had raised the matter with them DEFRA had explained that at the current time they could only confirm funding up until the end of the current parliament. There was some reassurance in that the Government had a policy of not giving local authorities new burdens without additional funding.


(iii)        Whilst enhancing biodiversity was the main aim of the LNRS, other environmental benefits were expected to be gained by the work such as tackling climate change, reduction of carbon emissions and improving air and river quality.


(iv)       The LNRS would be written at a strategic (landscape) level and would set out the priorities and proposed measures across the geography. The exact contents of the Strategy could not be pre-empted as consultation with stakeholders still needed to take place. The legislation did not require the County Council to develop an action plan, only a strategy, but the logical next step was to produce an action plan therefore the County Council would be creating one. Further detail around the LNRS work would be found in the action plan.


(v)         As part of the duty the County Council was required to engage with stakeholders including landowners and farmers. Farmers were being encouraged to move towards more sustainable farming practices. They would receive separate funding from DEFRA to replace that which they previously received through the Common Agricultural Policy. The County Council was working with its own farms through the property department. On 30 June 2023 the County Council was holding an information event designed to provide partners, landowners and other stakeholders with information about the LNRS work. There would also be a private briefing for County Council members on 20 June 2023.


(vi)       The Government was in the process of revising the planning process and part of this was to better align the process with the nature recovery work.  It was intended that Local Nature Recovery Strategies would guide where the biodiversity enhancement work takes place. Local plans would have to take account of Local Nature Recovery Strategies and there was a duty on local planning authorities to have regard to the Strategies when making planning decisions. Local Authorities would also have to take account of the Strategy when managing their own land. However, in the meantime whilst the Strategies were in development, decisions about biodiversity netgain were already being taken so the Government was expected to produce guidance on how this should be managed in the interim period.


(vii)      The monitoring of land passed from housing developers to management companies would not form part of the LNRS work. Instead, this would be part of enforcement work carried out by planning authorities. However, the County Council would be engaging with planning authorities as part of the LNRS work.


(viii)    Spatial strategies produced as part of the LNRS work would map the most valuable existing nature areas. The starting point for this work would be locations that had already been identified as valuable with regards to nature such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other designated local wildlife sites.  Subsequently, engagement would take place with landowners to identify other sites. An interim LNRS Steering Group had been established which comprised of officer representation from all the local authorities in LLR, the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, and the National Forest Company. The Steering Group would be making the final decisions on which sites would be prioritised. A member raised concerns that this decision-making process could be subjective and undemocratic.


(ix)       In the past the Common Agricultural Policy had encouraged farmers to remove hedgerows by offering subsidies to make fields larger. However, it was now acknowledged that this had been a mistake and measures were being put in place to ensure hedgerows were retained and replanted.




That the new statutory duty placed on local government in relation to Local Nature Recovery Strategies, and the appointment of Leicestershire County Council as a ‘responsible authority’, be noted.



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