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Across the globe, biodiversity (the variety of life on earth) is changing, driven by human impacts on the environment. In the UK, species’ population and range sizes are declining by 13% on averagewhich could diminish the wide range of benefits these species provide to people. Much of this decline is due to the intensification of human land use, and the degradation of natural habitats, alongside climate change.

LNRS are being proposed by the UK Government in the Environment Bill as one way of trying to reverse the loss of habitat and the decline of species in England, by mapping where important habitats can be conserved, restored and connected. The strategies will take both data and stakeholder-driven approaches to understand where improvement and restoration of habitats will support the ‘Bigger, Better, More and Joined-up’ principles of the 2010 Lawton Report, and aim to achieve multiple environmental benefits that nature can bring to people. LNRSs are due to launch across England in April 2022. 

Five LNRS pilots took place in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, and Northumberland from September 2020 – May 2021. The outcomes of the pilots are currently guiding Defra’s development of LNRS policy, guidance, and regulations. While biodiversity and land management strategies are devolved policy areas in the UK, similar policies are being planned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Key Points 

  • The LNRS process will deliver two main outputs: a list of priority opportunities for habitat improvement and restoration in the strategy area, and a local habitat map which contains existing nature sites and habitats, and locations of the priorities for future habitat improvement and restoration. 
  • LNRS will have the potential to drive delivery of a range of policies in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the Environment Bill and Agriculture Act, such as contributing to the national Nature Recovery Network. 
  • Several challenges are present for LNRSs. These include the need to ensure consistency across strategy areas whilst aiming for a bottom-up approach to planning; trade-offs between habitat restoration and other human land uses; the need for adaptive management; and shortfalls in the required skills and capacity in local authorities. 
  • Extensive funding will be needed by Defra to fill capacity gaps, and to carry out LNRSs. Defra expect a range of public schemes such as the future farming schemes, as well as private funding, will enable the delivery of LNRS outcomes. 


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

Members of the POST board* 

Alice Lord, Natural England 

Anna Collins, Natural England 

Richard Barnes, Defra* 

Michelle Kelly, Defra 

Andrew Holden, Defra* 

Joanna Averley, MHCLG 

David Roberts, MHCLG 

Dr Sebastian Dunnett, Hammersmith and Fulham Council 

Alisha Anstee, National Farmers Union* 

Susan Twining, Country Land and Business Association 

Harry Greenfield, Country Land and Business Association* 

Dr Nick Isaac, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology 

Professor James Bullock, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology* 

Dr Lisa Norton, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology* 

Professor Andrew Pullin, Centre for Evidence Based Conservation and Bangor University 

Dr Jenny Hodgson, University of Liverpool* 

Professor Liz Fisher, University of Oxford 

Dr Colm Bowe, Nature North and Liverpool John Moores University* 

Dr John Martin, University of Plymouth* 

Dr Jim Rouquette, Natural Capital Solutions 

Prof Mark Reed, Scotland’s Rural College 

Tom Curtis, 3Keel 

Bruce Winney, Wildlife and Countryside Link* 

David Johnson, The Rivers Trust and Catchment Based Approach* 

Joanna Caldwell, National Trust 

Patrick Begg, National Trust 

Ben McCarthy, National Trust* 

Katie Ramsey, National trust* 

Prue Addison, Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust* 

Michael Oxford, Association of Local Government Ecologists* 

Tom Hunt, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres* 

* denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing 

Correction [15/09/21]: “pollinator habitat restoration networks (PN-619)” was added on pg2.

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