Agenda item

Natural Environment Strategy

Report of Cabinet Member for Environment Infrastructure and Climate Change


The Committee considered a report of the Cabinet Member for Environment, Infrastructure and Climate Change regarding the production of a draft Natural Environment Strategy for the County (schedule 1 to the signed minutes). The Strategy was to be considered by Cabinet at their meeting on 17 January 2024 and therefore the Cabinet Member had requested pre-decision scrutiny by the Committee.


Members heard that Central Government had launched its 25-year Environment Plan in 2018 with the aim of helping the natural world regain and retain good health. A 5-year review of the plan was subsequently undertaken in 2023 which resulted in a refreshed Environmental Improvement Plan containing the following key Commitments:-


·       Halt the decline in species abundance by 2030;

·       Protect 30% of UK land for biodiversity by 2030;

·       Increase species abundance by at least 10% from 2030, surpassing 2022 levels by 2042;

·       Restore or create at least 500,000 ha of a range of wildlife rich habitats by 2042;

·       Reduce the risk of species extinction by 2042 and;

·       Restore 75% of our one million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long term by 2042.


In addition, The Environment Act 2021 had brought in new duties and requirements to support the ambitions of the 25-year plan including the following measures in relation to biodiversity:-


·       Developing Local Nature Recovery Strategies;

·       A strengthened biodiversity duty;

·       Mandatory minimum 10% biodiversity net gain through the planning system and;

·       A requirement for local authorities to produce a report on their action for biodiversity.


In response, the County Council had developed a draft Natural Environment Strategy which took account of the Authority’s statutory duties, guidance issued by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, national targets set by Government, and Nature

Recovery Declaration made in February 2022.


The strategy set out a mission statement and ten high level objectives to conserve and enhance biodiversity and the natural environment as follows:-


Mission Statement - “We will directly support nature recovery in Staffordshire, through targeted action across our land and functions, and as a champion for activity across the county”.


(i)                Develop and deliver a Local Nature Recovery Strategy Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent;

(ii)               Ensure coordinated delivery of biodiversity net gain;

(iii)              Ensure our policies, strategies and operations consider biodiversity;

(iv)             Ensure all designated sites in our ownership have management measures in place to achieve favourable condition by 2042;

(v)               Manage and protect 30% of our land (excluding highways) for biodiversity by 2030;

(vi)             Develop a wildlife-friendly management approach to roadside verges;

(vii)            Develop a suite of species recovery measures for our land;

(viii)           Use nature-based solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change wherever possible, to maximise benefits to both wildlife and climate;

(ix)             Enhance and restore landscape character and quality and support landscape-scale nature recovery and;

(x)               Raise awareness and support the active involvement of communities in caring for our natural environment.


In the full and wide-ranging discussion which ensued Members gave detailed scrutiny to the draft Strategy, asking questions, seeking clarification and raising areas of concern as necessary, including:- (i) the danger to wildlife from the County’s Highway network and the need for measures to reduce ‘road-kills’ through the Local Nature Recovery Strategy; (ii) engagement with local communities required to implement the Strategy and the role of ‘Local’ Members; (iii) the opportunities available to increase biodiversity along Highway verges; (iv) the need for the strategy to recognise the importance of all classes of indigenous fauna rather than only birds as highlighted in the presentation slides and; (v) the joint working between Cabinet Members and stakeholders necessary to achieve the aims of the Strategy.


In conclusion Members welcomed the production of the draft Strategy particularly having regard to recent reports regarding nature depletion in the Country. In addition, they undertook to monitor progress against the various timelines for Actions listed in the accompanying Action Plan and give further scrutiny as required, when necessary.


RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and noted.


(b) That the draft Natural Environment Strategy be welcome that that further scrutiny be given to the progress made against the various Actions contained in the accompanying Action Plan, at the appropriate time, as necessary.    

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