CIEEM Webinar: Natural England Nature Recovery Network

Building on the September 2021 article in In Practice magazine this webinar, presented by Natural England and hosted by CIEEM, helped members learn more about Natural England’s Nature Recovery Network (NRN).

The webinar covered the NRN in the context of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS), Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), mapping and data, Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), and funding.


  • An introduction to the Nature Recovery Network (Aidan Lonergan, Principal Adviser, Natural England)
  • Monitoring the NRN (Andy Cooke, Principal Adviser, Natural England)
  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies (Andy Holden, Policy Adviser, Defra)
  • Local Delivery of the NRN (Andy Millar, Senior Adviser, Natural England)
  • Audience Q&A


Extra questions from the audience that we didn’t have time to answer during the webinar:


A lot of people we are speaking to are getting confused between Nature Recovery Networks, Nature Recovery Partnerships and Local Nature Recovery Strategies and how they link together. Is there a chart or diagram which we can use to help? There is some guidance currently here: Nature Recovery Network – GOV.UK ( We will soon be able to publish and make public more material on this. We will make partners aware once this happens and we encourage people to sign up by contacting in the meantime. 
Aidan’s slide mentioned a new enhanced NERC duty for local authorities – can you elaborate on this? This is sections 102 & 103 in the Environment Act. These sections make a number of changes including creating the requirement for all public authorities to have regard to relevant LNRSs
Aidan, you mentioned that the NRN is not just about ‘the usual suspects’, but is characterised by engagement across all of Government, not just DEFRA. Can you give some examples of this? We are supported by a Management Group across 30 different sectors. This group will evolve over time and represents the range of different sectors that we are engaging with, and includes business, finance, academia and many others. 
How and where would a rural parish council on the Isle of Wight, start on a Nature Recovery initiative in the parish?

Some useful considerations can be found in this handbook. Do also consider contacting your local nature partnership, as will as the NRN partnership:




How are you building cultural and economic value into NRN and LNRSs?

The improvement of biodiversity is written explicitly in the environment act but there is also a requirement for LNRS to identify priorities in terms of wider environmental benefits. It is clear that these include ‘nature-based solutions’ but the full scope of these wider environmental benefits will be defined in the Regulations and Statutory Guidance.  

The NRN partnership will work with different sectors through the management group to ensure that a range of values contribute to decision making and actions. 

Where does public access fit with the NRN? Natural England is working with Defra, Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and wider government and sector stakeholders to ensure that access is embedded into the NRN. Health, wellbeing and improved access to nature are recognised as key drivers for the NRN.


Data and Mapping

In terms of monitoring and evaluation, much of the species data required for this is collected by voluntary organisations and not necessarily within structured monitoring, how will voluntary recorders be supported to allow this?

For a network to really function ecologically, it needs to be established following good evidence to work out what to do where. What do the panel feel are the greatest challenges in establishing that evidence base, and/or filling gaps in existing knowledge?

We are working closely with Defra and partners to develop a monitoring and evaluation strategy for the NRN which we will share in due course.
What is the Living England map that Andy Cooke mentioned, is it part of MAGIC? The Living England map is a new national habitat map derived from satellite data.  It isn’t currently part of MAGIC but will be available as open data when published next year.



How will LNRSs work in a more urban setting? Will their wildlife corridors be included as part of this process? LNRSs will cover the whole of England with no gaps and overlaps. Obviously the priorities and opportunities identified in an urban area may look different to those in a rural area as existing land use may constrain the scale and scope of what changes can be made, but urban areas offer the potential to make changes that can also make a particular contribution to increasing people’s access to and engagement with nature/environment.
How do you see these principles being used where ecosystem services such as contact with nature, flood management and loss of biodiversity are needed the most, in our urban areas, especially where consideration of the impact of light pollution will be key? Mapping of opportunities will need to be mindful of surrounding land uses to ensure that proposals are appropriate in the particular location. Negative impacts like light pollution are part of what would reasonably need to be considered.


Farming and Landscape Scale Approach

In terms of working with farmers and land managers, any comments/experiences on the role of Facilitation Funds/Cluster groups?

What do you see the role of Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) groups and Facilitation Funds in this work?

We are working closely with these groups both locally and nationally as we recognise that they will be key in delivering the NRN. 

The NFU have been part of the NRN partnership management group since it launched with CaBA having also having joined this year.

How do ELMS, NRN, LNRS, NRP and nature recovery projects all link together?

How does all link in with the new funding systems for farmers?

The NRN provides the framework for these initiatives to align. For example funding through ELMS and Biodiversity Net gain could be targeted strategically according to the priorities identified by LNRS, with action then delivered by partnerships. 

How will LNRS fit with Landscape Recovery Scheme (3rd ELM scheme) – opportunity for overlap or distinctly different?

Will LNRS be used to prioritise the higher ELMs options assuming big enough demand on ELMs?

Does the National Habitats Network layer help farmers know if they are likely to be in a LNRS area for delivery?

The mapped output of the LNRS, the Local Habitat Map, will play a significant part in the spatial prioritisation of the Local Nature Recovery element of the Future Schemes (the second tier). The scheme will fund a significant amount of LNRS opportunity delivery.  

We can also expect LNRS to inform the Landscape Recovery Scheme but note that policy is evolving, with the third tier due to be piloted over the next two years.

What role does carbon sequestration play in opportunity mapping for habitat creation/enhancement/protection?

The Local Habitat Map maps out the opportunities that the LNRS process has identified based on the national data, added local data and of course the deliberations of a wide and varied local stakeholder base.

The Local Habitat Map must identify:  

Areas where opportunities have been identified to deliver habitat management, restoration and creation that will facilitate nature recovery and, where possible, deliver other environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration or flood management.

In protected areas like National Parks etc, there is much less opportunity for BNG, how can these areas where loss of habitats has been nearly as great, be supported?

What sort of role do you think protected landscapes (national parks and AONBs) will play in delivering the NRN with expected changes in legislation (following the Glover Review), such as changes in statutory purposes?

National Parks and AONBs will play an important role in this. One of the NRNs core objectives is to not only create new habitat but to improve the condition of the existing protected sites network. We are working closely with protected landscapes to achieve this, as shown by the joint agreement that NPs, AONBs, and natural england commitment to last year.
Is there any strategy to incentivise large private landholders to stop harmful land management practices? For example, burning peat/heathland. The new Landscape Recovery Scheme is intended to incentivise long term nature recovery at scale. 



What is the current view in Defra on the importance of mandatory biodiversity net gain in delivering nature recovery across England, given that the area of land subject to planning permission each year is relatively small (10K hectares?)?

BNG is one of a number of tools being developed to support nature recovery, alongside to name a few, LNRS, new farming schemes, England’s Tree and Peat Action plan.

BNG has the potential to be important, but forms part of a suite of new tools that will align to deliver the NRN.

How do NSIP projects fit in with this? It is expected that NSIPs will be required to deliver biodiversity net gain from 2025. Some are already doing this on a voluntary basis.


Local Authorities

Question for Andy Cooke – Hampshire has had a 2 man (plus) field survey team running for over 40 years continuously, mapping to NVC. How does our habitat data fit in with Natural England’s Living Map? The Living England Map will be a high level product depicting habitats within what is essentially a broad habitat framework.  The models that underpin the data processing have been trained through recent point-source field data.  Clearly at local level, data are often available that can provide enhanced resolution, both in terms of the detail of the mapping and the habitat type.  There are opportunities to use these datasets in an integrated way, both at local and national scale, but they are subject to resolving issues around ownership, licensing etc. for the desired purpose.

At least a third of Local Authorities don’t employ an ecologist. How can they be expected to take a lead?

Local authorities are going to be expected to develop and help deliver LNRS: will they be resourced to do this?

Who will be representing LPAs in this process? Do LPAs have the resources and competencies to actively participate in this debate/process?

What support will the responsible authorities receive?

Does the panel know when the details of additional financial resources required for delivery of LNRS (and other aspects of the Act) will be discussed and provided to Local Authorities?

With regard to ecologists -this is an issue that we explored through the LNRS pilots and have talked about in our lessons learned document. We recognise that not all Local Authorities will have the existing capacity that the pilot areas did. It’s likely that responsible authorities will need to draw on external expertise (e.g., consultants or eNGO partners) to bring in ecology, data analysis and geographic information system expertise. 

Defra has committed to funding all new burdens on local authorities through the new burdens settlement – and that includes Local Nature Recovery Strategies. We are currently going through a spending review so we can’t say at this stage how much funding will be available, but we will be providing support for responsible authorities.  

Our five pilot areas received £140,000 each to carry out the LNRS pilots alongside support from Natural England. We are analysing the pilot process and using the experience to determine the level of funding that will allow the production of high quality LNRSs.   



There has been discussion of focusing resources on this excellent initiative within Natural England and other key partners, but these resources are already stretched to cover statutory duties. Will funding become available to expand staffing to allow this alongside improved provision of key tasks like SSSI monitoring? Work is underway to develop mechanisms to bring in private finance to support nature recovery. Green finance strategy – GOV.UK ( This is an evolving policy area that the NRN partnership will support.