Natural England - Local government and local communities

Local government and local communities

Natural England is working with local government, their local partnerships and with their communities to help them place the natural environment at the heart of their local decisions.

Why is local government important to the natural environment?

The Localism Act (2011) has created new powers for local government and local communities. Alongside wider public sector reforms to help achieve a Big Society, the devolution of powers to local authorities, the opportunity for communities to create their own Neighbourhood Plans and the right to bid to retain community assets and run public services means that local decision making is now even more important than ever for the natural environment. There are opportunities for communities and local councils to benefit enormously from the natural environment on their doorstep and also to enhance it for the benefit of future generations.

A plain English guide to the Localism Act

What is Natural England’s role in local government?

As well as providing advice to local councils on a range of planning issues, Natural England is working with the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission and a number of local authorities to set shared visions and priorities for action for the environment in their area. Natural England is working in close co-operation with the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, to provide local authorities with a ‘single voice’ for the natural environment.

Further information: Natural Leaders: Actions for local environmental leadershipexternal link

Natural England is also a partner with Defra, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission and the Local Government Association in working with a group of local councils across England to explore ‘Total Environment’ solutions to issues that cross organisational boundaries or which are difficult to solve in traditional ways. The Total Environment programme has been running since October 2010 and has explored how we might collaborate better on issues such as flood and coastal risk management and green infrastructure.

Further information: The Total Environment programmeexternal link and the 2012 Total Environment progress reportexternal link (PDF)

Natural England, as a member of the Department of Communities and Local Government’s national steering group on Neighbourhood Plans, has published advice for communities working up their Neighbourhood Plans on how they might be able to consider the natural environment in their local decision making. This advice complements the policies for the natural environment set out in new National Planning Policy Framework. Natural England is also liaising with a number of the ‘front runner’ neighbourhood plan authorities to understand better how we might help and support communities in the future.

The advice to local communities jointly prepared by Environment Agency, English Heritage, Forestry Commission and Natural England can be found here Planning for the environment at the neighbourhood level.

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Natural Leaders

Girl looking at border

Natural Leaders – Action for local environmental leadershipexternal link - See the report to find out more about the lead role councils can play in promoting their natural environment using partnerships, long term vision, community engagement and investment in natural capital.