|Formed||1 October 2006|
|Annual budget||£201 million (2013)|
|Agency executives||Mr Andrew Sells, Chair
Mr Dave Webster, Chief Executive
|Parent agency||Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs|
Natural England is the non-departmental public body of the UK government responsible for ensuring that England's natural environment, including its land, flora and fauna, freshwater and marine environments, geology and soils, are protected and improved. It also has a responsibility to help people enjoy, understand and access the natural environment.
Natural England focuses its activities and resources on four strategic outcomes:
- a healthy natural environment
- enjoyment of the natural environment
- sustainable use of the natural environment
- a secure environmental future
Roles and responsibilities
As a non-departmental public body (NDPB), Natural England is independent of government. However, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has the legal power to issue guidance to Natural England on various matters, a constraint that was not placed on its predecessor NDPBs.
Its powers include defining Ancient Woodlands, awarding grants, designating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, managing certain National Nature Reserves, overseeing access to open country and other recreation rights, and enforcing the associated regulations. It is also responsible for the administration of numerous grant schemes and frameworks that finance the development and conservation of the natural environment, for example Environmental Stewardship, Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas, and Access to Nature. It has been severely criticised recently for ignoring scientific data and granting extended badger cull licenses to DEFRA. Rumours that Natural England are complicit in extermination of badgers because of pressure from the NFU (National Farmers Union) are rife and they have put forward no credible evidence to the contrary.
It is responsible for the delivery of some of Defra's Public Service Agreements (e.g. reversing the long-term decline in the number of farmland birds by 2020 and improving public access to the countryside).
Natural England was established on 1 October 2006 by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, which implemented the recommendations of a rural review by Christopher Haskins, Baron Haskins of Skidby. It was formed by the amalgamation of three founder bodies:
- Countryside Agency, the landscape, access and recreation elements
- English Nature
- Rural Development Service, the environmental land management functions of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
It received the powers of the founder bodies, including awarding grants, designating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, managing certain National Nature Reserves, overseeing access to open country and other recreation rights, and enforcing the associated regulations. It is also responsible for the administration of numerous grant schemes and frameworks that finance the development and conservation of the natural environment, for example Environmental Stewardship, Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas, and Access to Nature.
Natural England joined the 10:10 project in 2009 in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. One year later they announced that they had reduced their carbon emissions (according to 10:10's criteria) by 13%.
In 2008, Sir Martin Doughty, the chairman of Natural England warned the UK Prime Minister of the potential danger of GM crops. However in 2012 Poul Christensen CBE, the next chairman of Natural England, said that middle England should embrace new technologies like GM crops as long as there were adequate testing and safeguards.
Natural England's Corporate Plan 2012-2015 describes the goals and detailed objectives of the organisation.
State of the natural environment
In May 2008, Natural England published a report, "State of the Natural Environment", which brought together statistics and facts about England's environment. The report was intended to be used by environmental organisations as a benchmark and source for policy development. It complements reports on different topics produced by other organisations:
- on environmental facts and figures, by the Environment Agency
- on heritage counts, by the English Heritage
- on the state of the UK's birds, by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
- on the state of Britain's butterflies, by the Butterfly Conservation
Natural England funded eight pilot green exercise projects through local regional partnerships. These projects increased levels of physical activity and people's connections to their local green spaces. However, it was not clear whether these projects really changed people's long-term attitudes.
Natural England is promoting the concept of Green Infrastructure as a way to deliver a wide range of benefits for people and the natural environment together. It believes that Green Infrastructure should be delivered via the spatial planning system, as an integral part of new development everywhere, and also form a key part of proposals to regenerate existing urban areas.
Natural England is working with partners in the Growth Areas, Growth Points and proposed Eco-towns to prepare and implement Green Infrastructure strategies and demonstrate good practice on the ground.
Natural England is one of the steering group partners of Neighbourhoods Green a Green Infrastructure partnership initiative which works with social landlords and housing associations to highlight the importance of, and raise the overall quality of design and management for, open and green space in social housing.
Natural England was challenged in High Court in 2006 by Peter Boggis, a pensioner who protected his house from erosion. Natural England claimed that as the site of Boggis's house, at Easton Bavents north of Southwold on the Suffolk coast was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the protection went against the scientific community's interests. Natural England lost the case in 2009, when Mr. Justice Blair, the brother of the former Prime Minister, ruled that Mr. Boggis' "human predicament" was more important than the site's SSSI status. Natural England won the subsequent appeal in October 2009.
- Ancient woodland
- Sir Martin Doughty - first Chair of Natural England 2006-2009
- Natural Area
- Natural Character Area
- "Annual Report and Accounts 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013". Natural England. ISBN 9780102983340. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Andrew Sells confirmed as Natural England’s new Chairman". Natural England. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Dave Webster to continue as Natural England's interim Chief Executive". Natural England. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "Public Update on implementation of Lord Haskins’ Rural Delivery Review - Recommendations 1-9". DEFRA. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "Natural England Chooses IBM as Its Transformation Partner". IBM News room. 13 Dec 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- Mccarthay, Michael (23 June 2008). "Natural England warns Brown of dangers in promoting GM crops". The Independent. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- Gray, Louise (31 May 2012). "Hay Festival 2012: Poul Christensen: "people should not be afraid of GM"". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "Corporate Plan 2012 - 2015". Natural England. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Green Exercise Programme Evaluation". Natural England. 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "Green Infrastructure". Natural England. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- "High Court judgment confirms conservation status of Easton Bavents cliffs". Natural England. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
- Natural England official website
- Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006