The Government’s environment department, DEFRA, announced earlier this week that 41 new local nature partnerships (LNPs) have received approval. It’s a good start – but their work is only just beginning and the jury is still out on what benefits they will bring for the natural environment across England.
DEFRA has said that it will work with the other nine partnerships which did not get approval, to see if they can be brought on stream later this year. That is important as it will ensure that there is a comprehensive network of LNP coverage across the country.
Myself and colleagues from the Woodland Trust have been involved in a number of stakeholder workshops leading up to LNP bids in various parts of the country. In most cases, we have been impressed by the range of stakeholders involved and the commitment shown to joint working to achieve common objectives.
The Woodland Trust sees LNPs having potential to deliver on the aims set out in the Lawton report and the Natural Environment White Paper of working at a landscape scale and across local authority boundaries to deliver big benefits for wildlife in general and woodland in particular. To quote a well-worn expression: we can achieve more working together than we can achieve alone, and this includes working across sectors and interest groups as well as across geographical and administrative boundaries.
But to be effective, it’s also important that LNPs establish good linkages with other recently created bodies such as the Health and Well Being Boards and Local Enterprise Partnerships, reflecting the potential which the natural environment has to deliver social and economic as well as environmental outcomes. Having a LNP rep on the board of each Local Enterprise Partnership is one way in which this could be achieved.
The newly approved Local Nature Partnerships will start working in the next few months on developing structures, priorities and action plans. I hope that their structures will continue to effectively involve all stakeholders and be open and accountable. Their priorities and plans need to focus not just on mapping and strategy but also lead to delivery of effective gains on the ground for the natural environment and biodiversity.
What do you think a Local Nature Partnership could do for wildlife in your area?
Nick Sandford, Regional Policy Officer – North West & North East