Policy paper

Nature Recovery Network

Updated 12 April 2022

Applies to England

We know we need to do more to recover nature and increase the benefits it provides to our people and our economy.

Defra and Natural England are bringing together partners, legislation, and funding to create the Nature Recovery Network (NRN). Together, we will deliver the Network by restoring and enhancing England’s wildlife-rich places.

Creating a national network

The NRN will be a national network of wildlife-rich places. Our aim is to expand, improve and connect these places across our cities, towns, countryside and coast.

The NRN is a major commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and enacted by the Environment Act 2021.

What the NRN will achieve

The NRN will help us deal with 3 of the biggest challenges we face: biodiversity loss, climate change and wellbeing.

Establishing the NRN will:

  • enhance sites designated for nature conservation and other wildlife-rich places - newly created and restored wildlife-rich habitats, corridors and stepping-stones will help wildlife populations to grow and move
  • improve the landscape’s resilience to climate change, providing natural solutions to reduce carbon and manage flood risk, and sustaining vital ecosystems such as improved soil, clean water and clean air
  • reinforce the natural, geological and cultural diversity of our landscapes, and protect our historic natural environment
  • enable us to enjoy and connect with nature where we live, work and play - benefiting our health and wellbeing

NRN objectives

Through our work to create the NRN, by 2042 we will:

  • restore 75% of protected sites on land (including freshwaters) to favourable condition so nature can thrive
  • create or restore 500,000 hectares of additional wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites
  • recover threatened and iconic animal and plant species by providing more, diverse and better-connected habitats
  • support work to increase woodland cover
  • achieve a range of environmental, economic and social benefits, such as carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation

How we will set up the NRN

To set up and achieve our objectives for the NRN we will:

  • use mapping and data - especially Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) to effectively target action and investment in nature
  • integrate - our goals for nature with funding streams, policy and statutory duties that will incentivise the restoration and creation of habitats and help deliver the NRN
  • collaborate - develop supporting partnerships to use these tools to deliver action for nature

Use mapping and data

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are a new mandatory system of spatial strategies for nature established by the Environment Act 2021. They are designed as tools to encourage more coordinated practical and focused action and investment in nature.

There are expected to be around 50 county-based LNRS which will cover the whole of England. These strategies will help us to map the NRN locally and nationally.

Integrate goals for nature with funding streams, policy and statutory duties

We are establishing a range of funding and duties to underpin the NRN. This includes Countryside Stewardship and 3 future schemes that will reward environmental land management.

The government has announced a range of funding opportunities for nature. Central to this is the £640 million Nature for Climate Fund. The fund supports:

  • creation, restoration and management of woodland and peatland habitats
  • a tripling of afforestation rates across England
  • restoration of 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025

The £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund is creating a pipeline of nature-based projects to restore nature, tackle climate change and connect people with the natural environment. It is helping to address environmental renewal and sustain and build capacity in the environment sector.

We are also broadening the funding base for the NRN, for example by encouraging private and third sector businesses to invest in the natural environment. In particular, we are incentivising action for businesses in the development sector by mandating biodiversity net gain.

Create partnerships

Working together, using a range of tools and incentives, is essential to delivering the NRN. We are working in partnership with organisations and across sectors, sharing skills, knowledge and resources, to help achieve the objectives of the NRN.

This partnership working includes government, landowners and managers, businesses, local communities and conservation groups.

We have set up the cross-sectoral national NRN Delivery Partnership to support partnership working.

Legislation to support the NRN

The Environment Act 2021 underpins the government’s approach to establishing the NRN. The act:

  • sets the framework for at least one legally binding biodiversity target
  • establishes spatial mapping and planning tools to identify existing and potential habitat for wildlife and agrees local priorities for enhancing biodiversity in every area of England (LNRS)
  • creates duties and incentives, including mandatory biodiversity net gain

NRN Delivery Partnership

The NRN Delivery Partnership is a broad network of cross-sectoral organisations who work together to carry out action for nature. They are supported by the partnership management group.

Organisations within any sector who are willing to commit to nature’s recovery can join this partnership. This includes private business, charities and the government sector.

Natural England will encourage partners to pledge support to achieve the objectives of the NRN. These pledges will vary depending on the organisation. Examples include providing:

  • land for nature recovery
  • financial investment
  • advice, time or expertise

Partners will have networking opportunities, including a regular NRN conference, workshops and meetings.

Become an NRN Delivery Partner

To express an interest in becoming an NRN Delivery Partner, email Natural England’s NRN partnership team: NDPNaturerecovery@naturalengland.org.uk

NRN Partnership Management Group

The management group oversees the Delivery Partnership and provides strategic leadership. It is led by Natural England and supported by Defra, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission.

Members of the management group

The management group is made up of government organisations and a wide range of sectoral representatives.

Government organisations:

  • Natural England
  • Defra
  • Environment Agency
  • Forestry Commission
  • Forestry England
  • Rural Payments Agency
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Department for Transport

Sectoral representatives:

  • landowners – Country Land and Business Association (CLA)
  • people and engagement – Wildlife Trusts
  • conservation – Wildlife Countryside Link
  • woodland conservation – Woodland Trust
  • species – Rethink Nature
  • birds – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • protected landscapes – National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB)
  • access and recreation – National Parks England
  • health – Academy for Social Prescriptions
  • urban engagement – Wild in the City
  • science and academia – British Ecological Society
  • business – Council for Sustainable Business
  • farming – National Farmers’ Union (NFU)
  • commercial forestry – Confederation of Forest Industries (CONFOR)
  • transport – Network Rail
  • water – Water UK
  • development and net gain – House Builders Federation
  • finance and funding – UK Sustainable Finance Association
  • local government – Local Government Association