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Government publishes guidance on public authorities’ enhanced biodiversity duty

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

As the concept and introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) continues to develop the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published on 17 May 2023 guidance for public authorities on complying with their strengthened biodiversity duty in England.

Under section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, public authorities must have regard, in exercising their functions, to conserving and enhancing biodiversity.

From 1 January 2023, the Environment Act 2021 amended section 40 to extend the general biodiversity duty from “conserving” to “conserving and enhancing”, that is, from a duty to preserve to an active requirement to improve. “Public authorities” includes not only government departments, public bodies and local authorities (including local planning authorities), but also statutory undertakers with public authority duties for their land and delivering publicly important services.

The guidance explains that public authorities must:

  • Complete their first consideration of what action to take for biodiversity by 1 January 2024 and agree policies and objectives as soon as possible after that. They should check if their strategies will affect how their organisation complies with the biodiversity duty. In particular, this applies to local nature recovery strategies; species conservation strategies; and protected site strategies introduced by the Environment Act 2021.
  • Take action to help the government meet the targets in its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 (EIP 2023) and prepare for mandatory BNG

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Ika Částka


Ika Částka

Senior Partner

Ika is Head of the Commercial Property team and has been advising individuals and businesses across Northamptonshire since 1986, specialising in commercial, agricultural and rural property matters for both businesses and individuals.