Government announces new package of measures for nature

06 December 2023

Environment and climate
Yorkshire national park

Photograph: iStock

Ahead of COP28, the government has announced a slew of new measures including a search for a new National Park, 34 new landscape recovery projects, new forests and funding to help more children get outdoors.

Helping more people access nature, putting nature at the forefront of government efforts to tackle climate change, and driving forward the UK’s pledge to protect 30% of land and halt the decline of species by 2030 are at the heart of the new nature pledges.

The government’s package of measures will help deliver some of the steps and targets outlined in the Environmental Improvement Plan.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “As I head to COP28, we are reasserting the UK’s leading role in promoting our iconic landscapes and keeping nature at the centre of our action to tackle climate change.”

Key measures at a glance:

We look forward to receiving more detail from Defra on how this new nature package will work in practice in delivering for both food production and for the environment.”

NFU President Minette Batters

The new measures include:

  • A search by Natural England for a new National Park which will begin in the New Year; this follows a commitment set out in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto. The search will identify an area which will be considered for designation and the final decision will be made by the Secretary of State.
  • £15 million new funding to support existing National Parks and National Landscapes, (formerly AONBs). £5 million is available for protected landscapes this year to improve the water and environment, and £10 million next year to restore habitats, improve access and achieve more for people and nature. 
  • 34 new LR (Landscape Recovery) projects, covering 200,000 hectares and involving more than 700 farmers and landowners. The successful projects will be awarded a share of around £25 million in development funding to finalise delivery plans. This is the second round of LR and builds on the 22 Landscape Recovery projects already underway. More detail about the projects can be found on this GOV.UK blog.
  • A further £2.5 million committed to helping children experience the benefits of the great outdoors through the project 'Generation Green'. The project includes improving access to woodlands which is being supported with a new Woodland Access Implementation Plan.
  • A new plan and £750,000 of Research and Development Funding to recover England’s temperate rainforests (found in Cornwall, Devon and Cumbria).
  • Two new Community Forests in Derbyshire and Tees Valley covering 175 hectares of new woodland planted by 2025.

A competition will also be launched to create a new National Forest, inspired by the success of the existing National Forest in the Midlands. The competition will invite bids from across England for transformational woodland creation at scale, or the strategic connection and enhancement of a range of existing woodlands, across defined geographies.

Although not new measures, the government has said it will publish its response to the review on protected landscapes, setting out the action plan for the future of these landscapes.

It will also publish further BNG (Biodiversity Net Gain) guidance at the end of the month and Statutory Instruments marking the steps to introduce mandatory BNG in January 2024.

Engagement with farmers is crucial

NFU President Minette Batters said: "British farmers and growers are passionate about maintaining and enhancing our farmed landscapes, providing a variety of habitats to support wildlife and plant species, protecting watercourses, and enabling access for the public. And as part of delivering our ambition to reach net zero by 2040, we are continuing to work in a variety of ways to reduce emissions through improved productivity on farm and changing the way we use the land in a bid to capture more carbon as well as planting more trees and hedges.

"We look forward to receiving more detail from Defra on how this new nature package will work in practice in delivering for both food production and for the environment.”

Ongoing government engagement with farmers is crucial throughout the delivery of the new measures. It is important that the measures meet the needs of and deliver for both agriculture and the environment, are fully budgeted and sit alongside equally ambitious plans for domestic food production and UK food security.

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