Natural Environment White Paper: Communities set role for green spaces

Green measures include local nature partnerships, nature improvment areas and developer biodiversity offsetting.

Measures include local nature partnerships and nature improvement areas - image: HW
Measures include local nature partnerships and nature improvement areas - image: HW

This week's natural environment white paper, the first of its kind in 20 years, contains a raft of measures aimed at enhancing the environment for the benefit of communities in England, in what it describes as "a fundamental shift in approach to conservation and land management".

As with other policy areas, much of the implementation is left to local community groups, businesses, statutory bodies and individuals, with the Government restricting itself to supporting and encouraging them.

Measures include:

- The creation of 50 local nature partnerships, which will work in tandem with local enterprise partnerships to raise environmental awareness and contribute to the green economy.

- Formation of 12 new nature improvement areas, again through joint local action, to "enhance and reconnect nature" - for which £7.5m has been earmarked.

- A voluntary biodiversity offset scheme will be piloted within the planning system, through which developers will compensate for habitat loss through improvements and restoration elsewhere.

- A new designation of Local Green Areas will enable communities to safeguard their green spaces.

- Creation of a natural capital committee to advise on setting a value on "natural capital" as a measure of national well-being.

- A new, business-led ecosystem markets task force will highlight opportunities in green goods and services.

- A range of measures will also better exploit the social benefits of green space, among them helping local authorities make the case for environment as part of their public health obligations, and promoting outdoor education.

- At European level, the Government commits to greening common agricultural and fisheries policies and the Nagoya biodiversity agreement.


- Val Kirby, head of landscape and diversity, Natural England

"The white paper is quite general and makes broad commitments, but Natural England will very much be participants in implementing it. The emphasis on community partnerships is reflected in our new organisational structure since 1 April, which includes an 'executive director for delivering with communities'. We already have the links at local level."

- Sue Holden, chief executive, Woodland Trust

"We are pleased the White Paper recognises woods and trees as cost-effective vehicles for delivering a range of services to society, from flood alleviation to public health benefits.

"What it lacks however is a tree planting target. All other parts of the UK have set a planting figure, so why not England?"

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