Local nature reserves: setting up and management

How local authorities can select a site, and then declare and manage it as a local nature reserve (LNR).

Applies to England

Local authorities can create local nature reserves (LNRs). Town and parish councils can create LNRs if the district council has given them the power to do this.

The local authority must control the LNR land - either through ownership, a lease or an agreement with the owner. As a manager of an LNR you need to care for and protect its natural features. You must also make your land accessible for any visitors.

It isn’t a formal requirement that your LNR is open to the public but you should aim to make at least part of it publicly accessible.

Select a site

Choose a site that is locally important for:

  • wildlife
  • geology
  • education
  • enjoyment (without disturbing wildlife)

Types of land

Many types of land can make suitable LNRs. They’re usually areas of natural green space but the following types of land can also be LNRs as long as they have wildlife or geological interest:

  • brownfield and artificial sites, such as historic cemeteries
  • agricultural land and orchards
  • commons and other accessible green spaces

How to declare a local nature reserve

To declare your site as a LNR, first you should contact Natural England by email: or telephone: 0300 060 3900.

You’ll be asked to formally declare your LNR by sending a draft declaration document - you can use this declaration document template (MS Word Document, 26 KB). It must be signed by the relevant local authority committees, have a map showing the boundary and a management plan detailing:

  • ownership of the land
  • any agreements or partnerships
  • why the LNR site was chosen
  • aims and objectives
  • biodiversity management and environmental education
  • community participation, access and visitor management
  • costs and funding arrangements

Following the consultation you will be asked to send the final declaration document to Natural England, signed by the relevant local authority committees.

Announce your local nature reserve

You should put an advert announcing the LNR in a local paper - you can use this sample notice (MS Word Document, 25 KB) - and let the public inspect the declaration and boundary map free of charge.

You can hold an official opening ceremony once you have formally declared your LNR.

Natural England will add your LNR to the Designated Sites View website which provides information about LNRs to the public.

Manage your local nature reserve

Local authorities can run LNRs independently or you can involve:

  • ‘friends of’ community groups
  • wildlife trusts and other recognised conservation bodies
  • site-based rangers
  • local school children
  • Natural England (who can give advice)

Access to your local nature reserve

LNRs should be publicly accessible where visitors would not damage or disturb wildlife. You can restrict access to some areas if visitors could cause damage to the natural environment, unless the public have statutory access rights.


Local authorities and town and parish councils can create LNR byelaws.

Byelaws can help you stop people damaging your LNR, for example prevent visitors walking into areas where they could harm wildlife. Before you create byelaws you should have tried other ways to keep your LNR safe and its wildlife protected. You can fine people if they break your byelaws.

Byelaws can only be enforced within the LNR. They must not replicate existing laws. You must have formally declared your LNR to Natural England or your byelaws will be invalid.

How to create byelaws

  1. Use this model to draft your byelaws (MS Word Document, 36 KB), tailor them to your site, then send them to Natural England for review.
  2. Send your draft byelaws, with Natural England’s feedback, to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, along with a colour map of your site and a cover letter explaining why you need byelaws, for example describe other ways you’ve tried to prevent damage to your site.
  3. You must advertise your byelaws in local newspapers using this public notice template (MS Word Document, 27 KB) for at least a month before applying for confirmation. If any member of the public raises issues, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will send them to you to consider.
  4. Fix the common seal to the byelaws - if you haven’t got a common seal, 2 named councillors must authorise the sealing of the byelaws.
  5. Authorise the named officer, for example clerk to the parish, to apply to the Secretary of State for confirmation.
  6. Get confirmation from the Secretary of State.
  7. Keep 2 identical signed and sealed originals of the byelaws confirmed by the Secretary of State. Only minor changes are allowed after confirmation and they should be initialled by whoever sealed it.

Control dogs on your local nature reserve

You can also put a dog control order in place to:

  • ban or restrict the number of dogs
  • make visitors clear up their dog mess
  • keep dogs on leads

Help with byelaws

Email your draft byelaws or questions to or write to:

Local Nature Reserve Byelaws Case Officer
Horizon House (2nd Floor)
Deanery Road

De-declaring an LNR

If you need to reclaim your land then the local authority must de-declare it as an LNR. The first step to de-declare your LNR is for the local authority to contact Natural England by email: to consult with them.

You should only de-declare your LNR if it’s absolutely necessary, for example the land will be lost due to a road-widening scheme.

If your LNR becomes a national nature reserve (NNR) then it will be de-declared as an LNR.

Published 2 October 2014
Last updated 20 March 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated the section 'How to declare a local nature reserve'.

  2. First published.