National Context and Guidance
Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, updated by the Environment Act 2021, places a legal responsibility on public authorities in England to have due regard for habitats and species of the greatest conservation importance, whilst protecting all biodiversity.
"Every public body must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving and enhancing biodiversity" s40 NERC Act 2006 (Updated)
"Conserving biodiversity includes, in relation to a living organism or type of habitat, restoring or enhancing a population or habitat"s40 NERC Act 2006
The NERC Act requires all Local Authorities to be able to show that:
- biodiversity and conservation are integrated throughout all policies and activities across the Council
- all staff, managers and Councillors understand how biodiversity issues relate to their decisions and actions
- all biodiversity, especially species and habitats of principal importance, are protected and enhanced
- it provides sustained support to local biodiversity initiatives
- it has access to up to date biodiversity information and professional ecological expertise
- it reports on progress towards and demonstrates progress against, national and local biodiversity targets
The NERC Act 2006 is updated by Section 103 of the Environment Act 2021 that says Local Authorities must publish biodiversity reports which contain:
- a summary of action which the authority has taken over the period of the report
- a summary of the Authorities plans for the 5 years following the report
- quantitative data and any other information the authority considers is appropriate is include in the report
- the first report must cover no longer than 3 years, subsequent reports must cover no longer than 5 years and run consecutively
- the report must be published within 12 weeks of the last day of the report
Section 41 of the NERC Act 2006 contains a published list of habitats and species which are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England and for which local authorities have a special responsibility to conserve.
"Principle Importance" defines those species and habitats that are the most threatened, in the steepest decline or where the UK has a significant proportion of the world total.
The Habitat Directives from the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), aim to protect habitats and species of European importance. They make it a criminal offence to deliberately capture, injure, kill, disturb, trade or destroy the eggs or breeding site of any of the species listed and to pick, collect, cut, uproot, destroy or trade in any of the plants listed. This has been updated by the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, whereby functions have been transferred from the European Commission to the appropriate authorities in England and Wales.
The Environment Act 2021 will introduce new Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS). Led by DEFRA and their nominated Responsible Authority (locally Lancashire County Council), the LNRS will divide England into Strategy areas and will establish biodiversity priorities to drive nature's recovery in each area and promote wider environmental benefits. As these are produced, they will be adopted and integrated in to this strategy.