27 FEBRUARY 2018

Natural Capital and the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan

Graham Morgan and Jenny Spelling, Ecologists with EDP, recently attended an enjoyable and insightful conference in London on the Government's 25 year Environment Plan for England and the Natural Capital approach.


Keynote speaker was Nick Barter Deputy Director of Natural Environment Strategy at Defra who has been instrumental over the last two years in bringing the Plan to fruition. Thanks to the Westminster Forum for hosting such a great conference. It was really pleasing to see and hear such diverse technical and cultural backgrounds being able to contribute their perspectives to the same vision for the environment.


The Plan is commendable in its ambition and scope. Its main advantages are that it takes a long view (25 years), and because it is a framework, it is a great opportunity for all stakeholders to get involved in its ongoing refinement and implementation; within the Plan the Government has stated it is committed to working with stakeholders to make this happen. Although the Plan relates to England, the Plan recognises the responsibility to think and act globally. The Plan also takes a broad view; it encompasses the range of overlapping socio-economic and environmental assets and opportunities and therefore uses a Natural Capital assets/Ecosystem Services approach.


The Plan outlines action that will be centred around six key themes:

  • using and managing land sustainably
  • recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes
  • connecting people with the environment to help improve health and wellbeing
  • increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution and waste
  • securing clear productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans
  • protecting and improving the global environment

There are many strategic objectives behind each of these themes, a flavour of which is summarised below.  The Plan will also be supported by additional strategies such as the Clean Air Strategy.


In planning and development terms, the challenge is going to be giving traction to the higher standard of 'environmental net gain' and to translating the holistic Natural Capital assets/Ecosystem Services approach advocated within the Plan to development projects; such concepts are sadly lacking or weak in the current National Planning Policy Framework.


The Government intends to create more Green Infrastructure under the Plan. EDP is leading the way with its holistic Green Infrastructure approach to the socio-economic and environmental benefits of development projects (the Chesterton Farm development in the Cotswolds was recently awarded candidate Building With Nature status), so it is great to see this stated as a strategic national objective.


The Government proposes signing and implementing a new environmental land management system.

There are also ambitious targets to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat within a Nature Recovery Network that is outside the protected area network, and to plant 180,000 hectares of woodland by end of 2042 so that 12% woodland cover is achieved by 2060. The objectives around greater access to nature for wellbeing, and 2019 being a year of action for the environment are also pleasing.


Challenging but exciting times ahead!


The Environment Plan can be accessed here.


The Building With Nature award for Chesterton Farm can be viewed here.



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