05 July 2023

Further to measures introduced under the Environment Act 2021 (the “2021 Act”), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs released statutory guidance (the “Guidance”) on the development, presentation and overall aims behind Local Nature Recovery Strategies (“LNR Strategies”) on 23 March 2023. Responsible authorities are required to ‘have regard’ to the Guidance when deciding what information to include in their LNR Strategy and justify any deviations from it. DEFRA also published a policy paper (the “Policy Paper”) on 30 June 2023 on LNR Strategies. This article sets out the key takeaways from the Guidance and Policy Paper.

What is a LNR Strategy?

Introduced under the 2021 Act, and expanded upon by the Environment (Local Nature Recovery Strategies) (Procedure) Regulations 2023, LNR Strategies aim to promote the recovery of natural habitats and species across England. These strategies will focus on the delivery of biodiversity net-gain and the promotion of nature-based solutions at a local level.

Under the 2021 Act, LNR Strategies will be developed by Responsible Authorities, although statutory guidance emphasises the importance of collaboration in development. Responsible Authorities can include local authorities, national park authorities, The Broads Authority, the Mayor of London or in the case of a combined authority under s103 Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, the local Mayor. The Policy Paper details that DEFRA has appointed 48 Responsible Authorities which cover the whole of England with no gaps or overlaps and a map of these is available to review online. Natural England have an important role to play in providing support and advice to every Responsible Authority to help them prepare their strategies and can seek advice from the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

The policy aims to ensure maximum nature recovery and biodiversity net gain to ensure the environment is left in a better state than it was found. The 2021 Act includes ambitious targets, aiming to ensure that every area in England is covered by a LNR Strategy. 

Key components

All LNR Strategies must, at the very least, set out:

1. A statement outlining the biodiversity priorities for the area; and

2. A “Local Habitat Map” (or more than one if required) sufficient to cover the whole of the strategy area.

Statement of Biodiversity Priorities

Under section 106(2) of the 2021 Act, the statement of biodiversity priorities must set out the area covered by the LNR strategy (the “Strategy Area”) and any opportunities for enhancing recovering or enhancing biodiversity within it. The statement must then set out how these opportunities have been prioritised, and how they will be achieved.

As with any form of strategy setting, this will involve consideration as to what the policy is designed to achieve. In this context, Guidance advises that LNR Strategies should aim to reflect local concerns and circumstances, whilst also considering the contribution that can be made to meeting national objectives (such as climate change and managing flood risk). As discussed below, this will require Responsible Authorities to engage actively with the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Local Habitat Map

Within the Local Habitat Map responsible authorities must outline any national conservation sites or local nature reserves existing within the Strategy Area. In addition, the Local Habitat Map must identify which areas present the greatest opportunities for nature recovery, both in the present and in the future. Guidance suggests that the latter is the most important role of the Local Habitat Map. 

DEFRA recommend that the Local Habitat Map is designed to work in tandem with the statement of biodiversity priorities. Therefore, whilst Responsible Authorities should seek to set ambitious targets for nature recovery, the Local Habitat Map should identify areas which are already of particular importance, such as local nature reserves or irreplaceable habitats which will lend themselves to further enhancement The Government will provide a national habitat map to assist with this.

Guidance further suggests that focus should be placed on targeting areas within the Green Belt and in the vicinity of residential areas to ensure the Green belt is multi-functional and to increase access to green space. 

The Policy Paper indicates that LNR Strategies are intended to propose actions such as the creation of wetlands, restoration of peatlands, planting of trees and hedgerows and more sustainable management of existing woodlands and grasslands.

The development process

1) Prepare

The first stage of the development process is for the Responsible Authority to agree biodiversity priorities, as described above, and identify potential means of achieving them.

Whilst Responsible Authorities will have access to their own and Government data, in developing strategies and proposals for nature recovery, Guidance emphasises the importance of engaging actively with the public and third party organisations. Not only will this encourage greater support for implementation, but Guidance suggests that local groups may provide more up to date information on nature reserves and local needs. 

In addition, Guidance advises that Responsible Authorities should seek to collaborate with other local planning authorities in the surrounding area. This will allow for the delivery of a joined up approach, in particular for areas with similar ecological makeups. 

Authorities are advised to maintain the following principles of effective collaboration:

  • Transparency – demonstrating how third party input has contributed to the formation of the strategy;
  • Inclusivity – taking input from all interested parties;
  • Clear communication – drafting in plain English.

2) Publish

Further to the above principles, it is important that any LNR strategy is accessible to the wider public: both in terms of physical access and digestibility.

3) Take action

As above, Responsible Authorities must collaborate with local partners in both the formulation of the strategy and its delivery. 

4) Review

Guidance suggests that LNR Strategies should be reviewed every three to ten years in order to ensure priorities and proposals remain effective in the current environment. Throughout the review process, Responsible Authorities should consider what progress has been made towards nature recovery: whether stemming from previous strategy proposals or not. This will inform decisions as to appropriate measures to take in the future and where these measures should be targeted. 

This will further allow for an assessment of the strategy’s efficacy given changes in the natural environment, for example as a result of climate change, and changes in the needs of local communities. Again, this will require collaboration with third parties.

5) Update - revisit original considerations outlined at step one in order to reflect progress made and changing circumstances since last revision

Responsible Authorities should therefore ensure that their strategy is updated in line with these considerations. 

6) Republish - make the revised strategy available

As above, the revised strategy must be made available to the public.

In addition, the Policy Paper highlights that the Government is putting in place a package of measures to encourage carrying out proposals in each LNR Strategy. These include a new duty on all public authorities to have regard to relevant LNR Strategies, an incentive in how the new requirement for biodiversity net gain is calculated to recognise the added impact of taking action where the LNR strategy proposes, integration of LNR strategies into the planning system and funding for specific activities that LNR strategies will be expected to propose locations for.


Further to the principles of transparency and clear communication, strategies should be presented in a way which are practical and easily understandable by a range of stakeholders including landowners, managers and decision makers. As such, strategies should be concise and clearly structured, with supporting documentation provided if required and the Local Habitat Map should be simple and uncluttered.


Responsible Authorities have been provided with funding to be spent on preparing the LNR Strategies, which should take 12 to 18 months to prepare and publish. It is anticipated that these should be in place across England by March 2025.

How can Burges Salmon help?

Our dedicated planning team has expertise advising on the obligations arising from the Environment Act 2021. Should you have any queries relating to Local Nature Recovery Strategies, please do not hesitate to contact Cathryn Tracey, Director or Gary Soloman, Partner in the Planning & CPO team.

Key contact

Gary Soloman

Gary Soloman Partner

  • Head of Planning and Compulsory Purchase
  • Regeneration and Highways
  • Compulsory Purchase and Compensation

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