Local Nature Recovery Strategies – essential information

15 December 2023

Environment and climate
Poppy Sherborne

Poppy Sherborne

NFU Countryside adviser

Wildflowers in a field

NFU Countryside adviser Poppy Sherborne outlines what LNRS (Local Nature Recovery Strategies) are, their purpose and impact as well as the timeframes for delivery and engaging with the development of the strategies.

What are LNRS?

LNRS are spatial strategies which plan, map, and create priorities for nature in a given area. There are 48 strategy areas which cover the whole of England. Each strategy will include a Local Habitat Map and a statement of biodiversity priorities.

The responsible authority for each strategy has appointed by the Secretary of State. They are led mainly by local authorities but developed and delivered in partnership with a wide range of local stakeholders, including farmers and landowners. A map of the LNRS areas, a list of the Responsible Authorities including their LNRS webpage and contact details can be found on GOV.UK.

Regulations and statutory guidance for responsible authorities has been published and outlines what should be included in a LNRS – this, alongside £14 million government of funding and support, should ensure LNRS are consulted on with key stakeholders and are developed consistently across the country. The NFU is working with Defra to ensure farmers and landowners are engaged with and consulted on their local LNRS.

You can track our work in response to LNRS at: Defra consults on Local Nature Recovery Strategies.

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Impact on farming businesses

LNRS were introduced as a legal obligation under the Environment Act (2021). Its principal aim is to create space for nature to deliver BNG (Biodiversity Net Gain).

From January 2024, mandatory BNG legislation will require certain developments in England to reduce and restore any biodiversity lost during the building phase and deliver a 10% minimum boost to biodiversity. It can be delivered onsite, offsite or through credits.

The strategies will help identify the priorities and locations for nature recovery in an area which could be delivered through BNG habitat creation. If an area has been identified for nature in the LNRS, it could affect how BNG units are calculated in the Biodiversity Metric. When calculating the number of biodiversity units created through habitat creation, the metric will create 1.15x more units if the land and specific habitat created is identified in the LNRS. This will impact those thinking of creating BNG units for the market but also those planning a development which could be impacted by BNG.

More detail about BNG can be found at: Biodiversity net gain consultation – latest news.

Although the primary purpose of LNRS is to help deliver BNG, the strategies will also help contribute to delivering national environmental targets on water and air quality, biodiversity, and trees.

Within the planning process, the Local Planning Authority must take account of the LNRS in a local plan.

The government will provide separate guidance to explain what this means in practice. The NFU is concerned about the impact the strategies could have on planning applications and is lobbying government for this guidance and clarity.

The strategies could also serve other purposes in the future. It is currently unclear exactly how LNRS could affect the ELMs (Environmental Land Management schemes), but it could be used to incentivise actions that contribute to LNRS priorities. The NFU believes that LRNS actions should be optional and must not prevent access to funding.

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Preparation for LNRS formally began during April 2023. There are however no set timescales for LNRS preparation, but it is estimated that a strategy will take 12 to 18 months to prepare, agree and publish. Responsible authorities are working on the strategy at difference paces with many still at very early stages.

Further government guidance is expected to clarify how a Local Planning Authority must take account of the LNRS in a local plan. The NFU will update members once this has been published.

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How can farmers and landowners get involved?

It is still unclear exactly what impact LNRS could have on the planning process or how LNRS could influence ELMs, however there could be implications and we know that the LNRS will influence BNG. Due to this, it is important that farming representatives, farmers, and landowners to have the opportunity to engage in the development of these strategies to ensure they work for farm businesses including their own ambitions for nature.

NFU representatives are already sitting on many responsible authority LNRS stakeholder groups who are starting the process of developing their local strategy.

Farmers and landowners should also have the opportunity to be engaged with the strategy at various levels and stages throughout its development. It is up to the individual farmer or landowner how or if they engage, this could be sitting on a stakeholder group, attending a workshop, or responding to the public consultation.

The public consultation however is the last stage of stakeholder engagement, therefore engaging ahead of this should help ensure a more representative strategy.

The responsible authority will be actively reaching out to farmers and landowners in their area to initially raise awareness of LNRS but also to seek engagement. Those interested in being involved or looking to understand more about their LNRS should contact their local responsible authority, the contact details can be found at: GOV.UK | Local nature recovery strategies: areas and responsible authorities.

Some farms will fall into multiple LNRS areas. Responsible authorities should consult with their neighbouring authorities when creating the LNRS to ensure consistent strategies are developed across boundaries while still allowing for geographical variations.

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NFU key asks

At a national policy level, the NFU is concerned about the impact the strategies could have on planning applications and funding opportunities. The NFU has raised these concerns with government and is lobbying for guidance and clarity on this. The LNRS should not have a detrimental effect on planning decisions or limit access to funding.

The NFU is also working with Defra to ensure suitable farmer and landowner engagement guidance is given to responsible authorities.

At a local level, its it vital that responsible authorities are engaging with farmers and landowners to ensure that they have been consulted on throughout the LNRS development process. This will ensure that the strategy accurately represents what is happening on the ground and what could be achieved alongside farm businesses and food production. The content of the LNRS must be based on sound scientific evidence with local stakeholder input.

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