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Green fields highlighted by sunrays through heavy clouds from Curbar Edge

Public Authorities for Wildlife

Peak District millstones on hillside near Stanage

NERC Biodiversity Duty

On 1 October 2006 the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act came into force in England and Wales.

What does it say?

"Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity." 

Conserving biodiversity essentially means protecting all native species and habitats, and restoring or enhancing them where possible.

What does it mean?

The purpose of the duty is to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales, and to stimulate a cultural change in all parts of the public sector with the intended result being that biodiversity issues become second nature for public bodies when developing policies and making decisions. The duty affects over 900 public bodies, ranging from local authorities, fire, police and health bodies, to museums and transport authorities.

The Duty applies to:

  • All local authorities: unitary, county, district, metropolitan, community, parish and town councils;
  • Central Government departments;
  • Departmental executive agencies;
  • Government offices;
  • Non-ministerial government departments;
  • Non-departmental public bodies;
  • NHS trusts;
  • Utility companies;
  • All other bodies carrying out public functions under a statutory power, including police authorities (Derbyshire Constabulary signed up to the Peak District and Lowland Derbyshire BAPs in 2008, pictured right), fire service, prison service, museums, schools and higher educational institutions.

Where can I find out more?

Two sets of guidance have been produced by Defra:

What can Local Authorities do?

  • Integrate biodiversity into forward planning and development control processes;
  • Incorporate biodiversity into relevant strategies;
  • Incorporate biodiversity into Community Strategies and Local Area Agreements (include the governments biodiversity indicator);
  • Participate in local biodiversity partnerships and help to deliver Local Biodiversity Action Plan objectives;
  • Work with partners to promote beneficial land management;
  • Protect and enhance biodiversity on the Local Authority land;
  • Ensure up-to-date biodiversity information is available;
  • Identify and safeguard Local Sites of importance for biodiversity;
  • Raise awareness of biodiversity within education systems and with the general public.

The Secretary of State, under consultation with Natural England, has published a list of the living organisms and types of habitat which are of principle importance for conserving biodiversity.

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