Joined Up Thinking?

Are you on board with the latest Natural England Action Plan?

This ambitious plan was set out in June of 2021 and aligns with a five-year strategy to establish a “vision of thriving Nature for people and planet”.

As well as the prevalence of Nature in public policy it is also wonderful to see a growing appreciation of the outdoors across our society and economy. The beauty of Nature inspires us – it can be as simple as hearing birdsong outside a window, seeing wildflowers in the local park, or breathing a lungful of fresh air. It’s the personal benefits to physical or mental health, appreciated as never before by many people during the last year. It’s the need for Nature to be part of our everyday lives, with safe and inclusive access for all – wherever and whoever we are. And it’s the growing evidence base of the benefits from a fully functional ecosystem for plants, animals, flood protection, carbon and water quality.

Certainly, the Dasgupta review last year was another stepping-stone to call for the investment in our surroundings and natural capital. But equally we have seen in stark reality the inequalities in our society of access to high quality environment. Addressing this will be a major driver of Natural England’s work in the coming year, hand in hand with our work to restore Nature, everywhere.

I very much welcome therefore the decision by Defra to increase Natural England’s budget for 2021/22 following the Spending Review. A £63 million uplift to revenue and capital funding will be used to carry out our statutory duties and to achieve, with our partners, the big ambitions for Nature’s recovery in England. It is hugely encouraging to all our staff, programmes and projects – and I hope to many of you.

As well as enabling us to invest in our staff, our National Nature Reserves, new technology and a better evidence base it will also mean we can increase our external programme budget as we seek to deliver outcomes through partnerships with others.

But even so there is a lot to do in one short year and we must continue prioritising our efforts to the maximum benefit and create efficiencies in how we operate. So, this year we will start to make four shifts to the way we work.

Our shifts for 2021/22

  1. To visibly drive the Nature Recovery NetworkThe Nature Recovery Network is the government’s commitment to Nature recovery within the 25 Year Environment Plan, restoring sites, species and landscape quality through rebuilding ecosystems across land and sea and in our towns and cities. This delivers Sir John Lawton’s vision of thriving Nature, outlined in the 2010 Making Space for Nature report.

    We will lead and convene to make this happen – from design, development and delivery in partnerships, through Local Nature Recovery Strategies.

  2. To develop plans for placesWe want to be able to point to a growing number of places where our planning and licensing work supports robust strategic plans that accelerate Nature recovery on the ground.

    We are investing in our Area Teams to work in partnership with local responsible authorities to enable a green recovery. This includes building back greener through terrestrial and marine sustainable development – creating Nature-rich, accessible and characterful places to live and work.

  3. To tackle barriers to NatureWe know that people have lost connection with Nature – but improving Nature alone doesn’t always resolve this disconnect. We need to connect with the whole of society and to better understand and tackle the barriers to enjoying, engaging and connecting with the natural environment. This includes gaining better health, education and well-being for everybody within a better environment.

    We will do this partly by making Natural England a more diverse organisation, representative of the full breadth of society we serve – ready to engage with communities across the nation.

  4. To be evidence and evaluation ledThe three shifts above cover the ecological, economic and societal – and all need us to design changes that are scientifically coherent, legally sound and credible to the people who need them.

    We will design and embed evidence gathering and evaluation into our new approaches and learn from them, so we can be confident to try new things, take risks, discover and lead.

There are of course parts of our work which have not yet received the required funding. For example, our responsibilities for marine protection and development, the need to improve the quality of our protected sites and our duties for landscapes and access. We look forward to working alongside our sponsors in Defra to secure the funds needed from public and private sources to continue the public and government’s wish to invest in Nature on a long-term basis.

But there is much to be grateful for and optimistic about in the year ahead for all of us at Natural England. This Action Plan tells you more about what we intend to do. We look forward to working with you, in partnership for Nature’s recovery.