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01/04/2019

More detail required on conservation covenants

Words: Laura Edgar
Biodiversity / iStock-520327791

The proposed introduction of conservation covenants in England is welcome, but additional detail is required before their potential to support biodiversity net gain can be assessed.

This is the view of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

In a consultation launched in February, and which closed in March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) canvassed views on the best way to introduce conservation covenants, which would be voluntary but legally binding agreements. Landowners would be able to leave a “permanent conservation legacy” on their land for future generations.

The representative body for more than 30,000 rural landowners in England and Wales acknowledged that conservation covenants form a “crucial” part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as the UK Government’s strategy to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, while simultaneously delivering wins for the environment.

The CLA argues that without additional detail on the proposed length, administration and tax implications of the proposed conservation covenants, it is difficult to assess how many landowners will be likely to enter into these long-term agreements. Furthermore, the organisation says it needs details about the enforcement regime that should be developed and the system of oversight.

Harry Greenfield, senior land use policy adviser at CLA, said: “Conservation covenants could help to unlock net gain for biodiversity and realise the ambitions of the NPPF. However, without additional detail it remains to be seen whether rural landowners will be attracted to the concept in sufficient numbers in order for this to be the case.

“The CLA supports their introduction and believes they have the capacity to benefit landowners, society and the environment. The issue is to what degree? We need Defra to continue to work up the proposals, in partnership with landowners, to help the government to meet its ambitious housing and environmental goals.”

* This story originally said the covenants would apply in England and Wales. This is not the case: the covenants would apply to England only.

Image credit | iStock

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