The strategy is based on three guiding principles:
- creating resilient landscapes and seas
- putting people at the heart of the environment
- growing natural capital.
Natural England emphasises that it needs a new approach that takes the result of the recent EU referendum as an opportunity to 'shape a path that works best for England' and also fits within the context of more limited public funding.
Natural England 's strategy is underpinned by a focus on the 'outcomes approach': delivering better long term outcomes for the environment by understanding people’s interests and needs, and working towards a shared vision.
One of the key points of interest in Conservation 21 is NE's ambition to move away from procedural compliance and enforcement (imposing, monitoring and enforcing regulations) towards providing "expertise and evidence". Natural England wants a 'lighter touch' to regulation, in particular in relation to development projects, stating that it will use its regulatory powers more strategically and more sparingly at site or scheme level.
The emphasis on natural capital also reflects the growing adoption of this tool by both policymakers and the private sector as a method to measure the value obtained from the natural environment. We are connected to some of the top natural capital specialists and we see an increasing role for natural capital valuations to support legal submissions in a number of areas, from project plans and operational change through to incident response and enforcement.
Natural England's approach will be welcomed by many of our clients as a positive step forward. We wait to see how these principles will be translated into a change of culture on the ground.