Defence Infrastructure Organisation estate and sustainable development

How the Ministry of Defence estate is adapting to climate change, including nature conservation on the estate.

Adaptation to the impacts of climate change on the Ministry of Defence estate

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is working towards increasing climate resilience and maintaining the operational capacity of the MOD Estate in a changing climate.

Some effects of climate change are already being experienced on the MOD estate, for instance, MOD coastal sites are vulnerable to coastal erosion, fire has been an issue at some training areas during continued dry conditions and IT services have been interrupted during periods of extreme heat.

Existing vulnerabilities are likely to become more challenging as climate changes overtime including increases in extreme weather events. Building resilience to current weather vulnerabilities and planning for long-term changes in climate will enhance the continuity of defence outputs, minimising the costs and damages caused by current weather, as well as in the longer term ensuring that the estate is resilient to a changing climate.

MOD aims to identify the estate’s vulnerabilities on a site by site basis to effectively build adaptive capacity. To this end, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has developed the Climate Impacts Risk Assessment Methodology (CIRAM), which identifies the risks to defence outputs from current and future climate or extreme weather events, and identifies the actions required to maintain and optimise operational capability.

CIRAM supports the UK Climate Change Act (2008) and the UK Government National Adaptation Programme, the 2011 Greening Government Commitments, the Cabinet Office (CO) Critical Infrastructure Resilience Programme (CIRP), and The UK National Security Strategy (NSS) 2010 A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty.

Biodiversity and nature conservation on the MOD estate

As one of the UK’s largest landowners, MOD has a major role to play in the conservation of the UK’s natural resources. Stewardship of the estate means that the MOD has responsibility for some of the most unspoilt and remote areas in Britain; with statutory obligations to protect the protected habitats and the species that they support. Everyone using the MOD estate, whether Service or Civilian, has a duty to minimise adverse effects on the environment.


The MOD estate has been acquired gradually, principally over the last 200 years. Its wide geographical distribution, past and current stewardship and position on marginal land means that it contains an extensive range of the habitats and species to be found in the UK. Its exceptional quality has attracted numerous national, European and international nature conservation designations. This confers a heavy responsibility on those charged with its stewardship, and is also a source of considerable pride.

The need to provide realistic training across challenging and demanding terrain in a variety of environments, as well as ranges, munitions stores and communication sites, means that MOD has responsibility for some of the most unspoilt and remote areas in Britain, the largest of which is defence training estate Salisbury Plain, which extends over 38,000 hectares.

In 1973, the Nugent Report recommended the establishment of a MOD conservation officer to help target and co-ordinate the MOD’s conservation efforts. Since then, this post has evolved into a large team of dedicated MOD environmental specialists who advise on the sensitive management of the land used by MOD in the UK and overseas, and is supported by MOD conservation groups, which comprise MOD personnel, representatives from conservation organisations, and expert volunteers.

MOD policy

The importance of the estate for defence purposes cannot be compromised. With the introduction of more rigorous legislation and regulations affecting the day-to-day use and management of the MOD estate, it is essential that sustainable management of the natural environment be achieved. These arrangements must endure for the foreseeable future, since the requirement to support significant sea, land and air forces will remain; and little or no additional land capable of sustaining the use of advanced weaponry is likely to become available.

MOD policy is to ensure that natural environment issues are fully integrated with operational and training requirements and safety issues. MOD’s strategic objectives and targets for biodiversity are set out in the MOD Sustainable development action plan and the Biodiversity strategic statement for the MOD estate.

This integration is achieved through the use of Sustainability and Environmental Appraisal Tools (SEAT) and management planning systems for the estate. Details of MOD policy for nature conservation can be found in Joint Service Publication (JSP) 362.

Designated sites and protected species

The MOD owns some of the finest designated sites in the UK. MOD has management responsibility for approximately 170 sites that have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI). Over 130 of these sites also have international and European designations. MOD sites may also be important at the regional or local level, as Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) or Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). In addition, the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plans highlight the habitats and species most under threat in the UK.

The DEFRA report Biodiversity 2020: A Strategy for England’s Wildlife and Ecosystem Services includes targets maintaining 95% of SSSIs in unfavourable recovering condition and 50% in favourable condition by 2020. MOD has management responsibility for over 170 SSSIs. Details of the current condition of the MOD’s SSSIs can be found in the MOD SSSI Improvement Programme fact sheet.

Examples of designated sites

The Castlemartin Tank Firing Range runs along the rocky coastline with sea cliffs of carboniferous limestone which are of national geological and biological interest. This site also qualifies as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its chough population, a species of European importance, which depends on the diverse mix of habitats and the low intensity agricultural management.

Salisbury Plain Training Area is the largest Defence Training Estate in the UK. It has been used for military training since the early part of the 20th century, preventing conversion of its ancient chalk grassland to the arable farming prevalent elsewhere in England. The site is the best remaining example of lowland juniper scrub on chalk in the UK, and believed to be the largest surviving semi-natural dry grassland within the European Union.

It is for these reasons the area was selected as an Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Amongst a variety of protected and nationally important species, the Plain supports the largest UK population of the nationally scarce burt-tip orchid, and significant populations of green-winged orchid and frog orchid. There is also a large population of marsh fritillary.


Biodiversity is an integral part of the government’s sustainable development (SD) strategy. The MOD’s sustainable development commitments have been outlined in the Secretary of State for Defence’s Policy statement for safety, health and environment protection which states “Ensure that MOD plays its part in leading by example to deliver sustainable development in line with securing the future”.

MOD’s Departmental Business Plan contains sustainable development objectives and targets and states that MOD “will contribute to the government’s strategy for sustainable development”; and our commitment to conserve biodiversity where practicable, and in accordance with the primary requirement of the land for military training, is set out in the Strategy for the Defence Estate and the MOD Biodiversity Strategic Statement (see related links)

Biodiversity conservation is primarily implements at site level through Integrated Rural Managements and the MOD Environmental Management System (EMS) (information on these are also available on DE Internet). For examples of the MOD’s conservation work can be found in the Sanctuary magazine.

MOD biodiversity targets

MOD targets are:

  • to be an exemplar in the management of designated sites where compatible with military requirements
  • to ensure natural environment requirements and best practice are fully integrated into the estate management
  • to contribute, as appropriate, to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (and Country Biodiversity Strategies)

Next steps

  • departments to meet or exceed the aim of maintaining 95% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in unfavourable recovering condition and 50% in favourable condition by 2020
  • we will manage a programme of works to increase and maintain the percentage of MOD Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs/ASSIs) recorded in favourable/unfavourable recovering condition and determine the requirements for maintaining SSSI condition post 2010
  • all MOD establishments with a significant biodiversity interest to have an integrated land/ rural management plan (MOD commitment)

Statutory partners

MOD works closely with the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs), the Joint Nature Conservancy Council, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Natural Resources Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to ensure that our legal requirements are fulfilled, and designated sites and protected species are managed in accordance with their conservation objectives.

Declarations of Intent between MOD and the SNCBs formally recognise MOD as different from other landowners, in that the primary role for its land is to support the UK defence mission, “to defend the United Kingdom, and Overseas Territories, our people and interests; and to act as a force for good by strengthening international peace and security”. The Declarations of Intent reaffirm the MOD’s commitment to protect, and where possible, enhance the nature conservation value of its land whilst performing its functions.

The MOD has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Welsh Assembly government, the Scottish Government, and the Northern Ireland Office. This MOU reaffirms the MOD’s commitment to international important wildlife sites, and sets out liaison procedures for plans and projects that may affect the habitats and species that make these sites special.

Communities and social engagement on the MOD estate

This section provides an outline of the estate related community and social engagement aspects of defence business. It outlines the policy, tools and guidance and links to examples of good practice within the defence estate.

What does communities and social engagement on the MOD estate mean?

Community interaction plays a substantial role in supporting defence out puts. Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has responsibility for providing sustainable living and working environments or sustainable defence communities, good stewardship and safe public enjoyment of the estate. DIO is committed to being an exemplar of best practice and raising the quality of life for estate users through high standards in design, construction and ongoing maintenance.

A well designed and maintained estate supports a better working and living environment with a sense of community spirit and identity. The location, planning, layout and design of development activity will have a significant bearing on its success within the community. This leads to greater job satisfaction and retention of quality staff and improvements for service families. Avoidance of run down assets that are not fit for purpose is important as these can erode community values, decrease satisfaction and lead to vandalism, antisocial behaviour, fear and exclusion. In order to be successful, DIO recognises the need to engage with, and have the support of, wider communities.

This supports defence objectives through:

  • reputation enhancement
  • recruitment and retention
  • improved community relationships
  • staff development
  • better morale and improved work-life balance

MOD wider issues

The MOD plays a full part in contributing to wider community values by considering the impacts of defence activities on civilian communities and ensuring that they are as positive as possible. It also works to ensure that defence communities embody the principles of sustainable development. Engagement with the wider UK community takes place by supporting groups such as veterans and young people, commitments to promote equality and diversity and health and safety within the workplace are taken very seriously. Responsibilities towards staff and members of the public include volunteering, flexible working, travel and transport, access to the estate, equality and diversity, third sector engagement, training and skills.

MOD policy and strategy drivers

The MOD has produced its SD Strategy which sets out our commitment to ‘Securing the Future’, the government’s SD strategy. The MOD’s Sustainable Communities and Fairer World aim is: For the delivery of defence capability to contribute to the creation of a fairer world, more sustainable UK communities, and an environment in which people can fulfil their potential.

The requirements of sustainable communities on the MOD estate are also included in the following MOD policies and strategies.

 In trust and on trust: the defence estate strategy 2006

This strategy aims to develop defence communities by incorporating the Governments Sustainable Communities Agenda into Departmental estate planning. One of the strategic aims is to develop defence communities where civilian and military personnel and their families wish to live and work both now and in the future and recognise the sustainable development needs of other communities. The document sets out measures of success for this strategic aim.

The MOD’s ‘Sustainable development strategy 2011’ provides direction on what defence must do to become increasingly sustainable during the period 2011-2030. It is a sub-strategy of the ‘Strategy for defence’, drawing on the Defence Strategic Direction and the ‘Defence plan 2011’. It takes account of the outcomes of the ‘Strategic eefence and security review 2010’.

The document comprises 2 parts: the strategy, a policy compliant and resource aware document which looks out 20 years; and the plan, which provides the detail for the first four years (2011 to 2015).

It will drive further progress in:

  • ensuring that defence decision making processes fully consider and respond to environmental, social and economic impacts, threats and opportunities
  • reducing our reliance on fossil fuel
  • reducing waste production and increasing reuse and recycling
  • reducing water consumption
  • engaging suppliers in our sustainability agenda

Tools and guidance

Communities and social values are a theme in the technical guidance notes in the MOD’s ‘Sustainability and environmental appraisal tools handbook’. These notes provide reference material and more information on the approach to management of these issues.

Community and social engagement on the estate

Historic environment

MOD owns and manages a significant historic estate in the UK and overseas. MODs vision is to promote its sustainable use in recognition of the role and value it plays in supporting defence and local communities. A heritage strategic statement provides details of MOD’s commitments on the historic environment.

Volunteering, training and skills

All staff are encouraged to take an active role in volunteering in the community. In addition to individual voluntary activities the department runs programmes in association with the Princes Trust, such as Challenge Cymru, which enables staff to develop teamwork/communication skills by working with young adults from underprivileged backgrounds.

Staff are encouraged to continually develop skills that enable better working with the community/occupants of the estate.

Military personnel delivered bottled water to residents during the interruption of freshwater supply caused by severe flooding in Gloucestershire 2007

Public access

There is a presumption in favour of public access to the MOD estate for safe public enjoyment where this is compatible with military requirements. Further information can be obtained on the MOD public access website.

Outreach activities and conservation groups

Outreach activities, such as environment days, fêtes, and shared open spaces are a way of building relationships and binding a community. These are founded on partnerships between organisations (such as DIO, the Army Welfare Service, Wildlife Trusts and local groups) and a series of outdoor activities that provide widespread benefits for stakeholder engagement and on-going social inclusion are underway.

Conservation groups engage people with a connection to the site in the management of conservation issues at sites with particular conservation interests.

Equality and diversity

DIO is committed to responsibilities that recognise the equality and diversity of people and ensure that staff are treated fairly and with respect without any discrimination. These are factors are particularly relevant in the consideration of estate development and design.

Health, safety and wellbeing

The MOD attaches the highest importance to the health and safety of all our people when going about their normal routine business, and equally of our contractors and visitors. It seeks to conduct it’s activities, to ensure a strong healthy and just society by improving the health of it’s workforce and reducing health and safety failures. This will help achieve a more sustainable economy and community.

The list of issues relevant to estate communities and social engagement is extensive, however key points to consider are:

  • planning
  • design
  • stakeholder consultation
  • materials/natural resources that minimise negative environmental impacts
  • use of local supply chains
  • accessibility features and access to amenities
  • mixed land-use
  • layouts and external features of buildings to deter crime
  • noise management (eg choice of site boundaries that can minimise noise or vibration)
  • accessibility to transport
  • design for well being and sense of place
  • safety and security (eg natural surveillance, functional access by service vehicles)

Definitions and terminology

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.

Characteristics of sustainable communities

  • active, inclusive and safe
  • well run
  • environmentally sensitive
  • well connected
  • well designed and built
  • thriving
  • well served
  • wair for everyone

Definitions for community engagement

Community engagement refers to how stakeholders in communities are engaged in determining their needs and/or ways of addressing these, particularly by those in a position to facilitate this by way of funding and/or other measures of assistance (eg. government agencies).

Community engagement is about encouraging and supporting local people to participate and be involved in decisions about local services and, in some cases, the delivery of such services.

Community engagement involves consulting the community and or getting them aware and involved in a particular event, activity or project. It aims to provide change in the community for benefit of the community.

Deer management on the defence estate


The Ministry of Defence (MOD) aims to ensure a well managed and healthy wild deer population, which presents no threat to long term environmental, social or economic sustainability. This is consistent with government policy, legislation the MOD’s wider estate management strategy: to manage, maintain and develop the MOD estate as a military training facility, whilst taking full account of other rural land management priorities such as nature conservation and the interests of MOD’s agricultural tenants.

Deer management is an essential estate management duty and supports MOD’s wider Sustainable Development (SD) activities and requirements. Defence Deer Management (DDM) and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) are working together to ensure that deer management activity is carried out in a humane, sustainable and effective manner.

MOD has a statutory obligation to undertake the sustainable management of wild deer populations. This involves ensuring deer populations are sustainably managed in the context of estate management and military requirements. MOD’s deer management is an important but often unseen activity that has evolved for over 30 years.


There are 6 species of deer commonly found wild in Britain. Red and Roe deer are native; Fallow, Sika, Muntjac and Chinese Water deer are introduced species.

All British deer species occur across the 240,000 hectares of MOD Land in the UK. Regrettably, while deer are exceptional animals to observe, they can be damaging to the environment and to many of man’s interests.

What is deer management

Deer management is the process used to ensure that wild deer populations are healthy and in balance with their environment. Deer management involves a series of linked processes, from population census, to habitat impact assessments and active and passive control measures. Active measures include reducing the population size through humane deer culling. Passive measures may include other methods such as deer fencing.

Why manage deer

British wild deer populations have increased rapidly over the last 40 years and may be higher than at any time in the last 1000 years. Consequently, there is increasing evidence of the various negative impacts of deer across the UK. These include:

  • damage to semi-natural habitats and biodiversity values
  • damage to agricultural and horticultural crops
  • damage to woodland plants and additional costs of protecting trees from deer
  • road traffic collisions, some resulting in human injuries or fatalities
  • infection with diseases affecting farm livestock and in some cases humans
  • damage to gardens

When should deer management be undertaken

In the absence of a viable natural predator for wild deer in the UK, all populations and their impacts should be monitored. Careful and effective deer management will reduce negative deer impacts and in turn, will sustain a healthy wild deer population in balance with the needs of wildlife and those who live and work in rural Britain.

Wider benefits of deer management

The sustainable management of wild deer populations bring a number of wider benefits which include:

  • biodiversity and designated site enhancement
  • the protection of agriculture and forestry, resulting in reduced financial losses and reduction in claims from MOD’s tenants
  • good custodian of public estate land, safeguarding the welfare of wild deer and their position in the natural ecosystem
  • positive relationships with neighbours and local communities
  • minimisation of potential deer related disruption to operational capacity
  • reduced risks to health and safety through reduction in deer related road traffic collisions
  • a healthy wild deer population in balance with its habitat and MOD’s operations

Environmental Management System (EMS)

This section provides an overview of Defence Estate’s (DE) approach to environmental management and its environmental management system (EMS). It covers all of the Top Level Budget-Holder (TLB) sites and activities. It provides an overview of why environmental management is important, sets out the objectives DE must meet and provides links to key documents and guidance.


MOD recognises the importance of protecting the environment and being able to demonstrate good environmental management performance. The strategic policy is set out in Joint Service Publication (JSP) 815 and the policy sets out the framework for the MOD EMS as the ISO 14001 Standard for environmental management.

Whilst with each TLB is expected to adopt the key principles of ISO 14001 Standard, some flexibility is acceptable. The work required must be proportional to the potential environmental impacts and the organisation’s other priorities.

MOD takes a systematic approach to incorporating environmental considerations into every business decision including all aspects of policy making, procurement and change management. It provides a framework for continual improvement in performance and represents a long-term commitment to environmentally responsible management.

MOD policy

It is MOD policy to comply with all environmental legislation and any additional requirements arising from international treaties and protocols to which the UK is a signatory and to maintain a corporate Environmental Management System (EMS) based on ISO 14001. Overseas MOD will apply UK standards where reasonably practicable and in addition comply with relevant ‘host nations’ standards. Crown or defence exemptions to legislation are only to be invoked where required to maintain operational effectiveness.

Basic EMS requirements

MOD branches and establishments should ensure:

  • that all activities are covered by an environmental management system
  • that all environmental impacts are identified and actively managed
  • establishments must have an active EMS is place and have an appointed environmental manager
  • a robust system is in place to capture and report environmental data
  • that environmental performance is continually reviewed and improved

The Secretary of State’s ‘Policy statement on safety, health, environmental protection and sustainable development’ must be complied with by all MOD establishments and individuals. It must be displayed at all establishments and used as a check list for compliance.

Other tools are available to assist with environmental management in defence business, equipment acquisition, estate management and estate construction projects:

  • the Project Orientated Environmental Management System (POEMS)
  • the Sustainability and Environmental Appraisal Tool (SEAT) Handbook
  • Defence Related Environmental Assessment Methodology (DREAM)

Heritage on the MOD estate

MOD has a rich and diverse historic environment on its UK estate and overseas. It is responsible for over half of the government’s historic environment assets, a valuable proportion of the nation’s heritage. It is diverse, ranging from prehistoric monuments and tenanted farmhouses on the training estate; to Horse Guards Parade and MOD main building in Whitehall; to the historic dockyards, barrack blocks and iconic World War II airfields.

Recently, statutory protection has also been extended to 20th century military structures reflecting the increasing historic importance placed on the two World Wars and the Cold War.

In the UK, MOD is responsible for over 800 listed buildings and 700 scheduled monuments; in excess of 10,000 archaeological monuments and eight registered parks and gardens. Areas of the MOD estate fall within 10 UK World Heritage Sites and a number of MOD sites have been designated as, or are within local planning authority conservation areas. Overseas, MOD is responsible for important historic environment features such as the classical remains on the Cyprus sovereign bases, historic buildings of Gibraltar and a number of features on training areas in Germany.

What is historic environment?

MOD considers the historic environment in its widest context both in the UK and overseas, on land and at sea. This includes:

  • features which receive statutory protection such as listed buildings, scheduled monuments and conservation area;
  • features that are protected through the planning system such as field monuments, world heritage sites, historic battlefields and historic parks and gardens
  • those features that are considered to be of “heritage and ethos” value to MOD
  • historic landscapes (ranging from prehistoric landscapes to military airfields)
  • other local listed or vernacular heritage estate features such as traditional farm buildings and field walls in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; and maritime archaeology including designated wreck sites.

MOD heritage and ethos sites are defined as:

  • “a location, facility, building or structure in, on, over, under or from which a commendable event or events of significance in the history of the services or defence, and pertaining to its ethos, occurred or to which it is directly associated”
  • naval wrecks and RAF, and foreign air force, crash sites both on land and at sea
  • Service memorials, including War Memorials

MOD has inherited many of its historic environment sites, for example the pre-historic archaeology on Salisbury Plain or country houses. As the guardian for these important assets, MOD is responsible for their stewardship. However, MOD and its forerunners have also created their own history through significant events that are reflected on the estate such as the Trenchard and Cold War airfields; the historic dockyards and barracks; together with iconic training centres such as RMA Sandhurst and the Britannia Royal Naval College.

There are also an important range of historic environment features that are not statutorily protected but are nevertheless of heritage interest both to MOD and to local communities. Examples include, the sound mirrors on Hythe Ranges, the chalk ANZAC cap badges on Salisbury Plain and includes local signage and street furniture. MOD recognises the importance of these features to the Services and also to local communities.

It is policy to sustainably manage and continually improve the estate, including the heritage assets. Heritage plays an important role in improving the quality of life for those who work and live on the estate and its role is recognised in enhancing the ethos of the services. As a government department, the MOD has a duty to be exemplar in the management of its historic estate and had adopted the DCMS Protocol of the Care of the Government Historic Estate.

MOD works closely with its statutory advisers (especially Historic England, Historic Scotland and Cadw) and Local Planning Authorities on the management of its heritage. Progress on the management of MOD’s heritage is reported within a number of publications including the biennial MOD Heritage Report.

Historic buildings on the MOD estate

The MOD estate has some of the most important and best-preserved military buildings in the country ranging from Tudor defences, to Georgian naval buildings and defences, Victorian barrack blocks to Cold War structures. MOD’s historic buildings are often integral to operational requirements, supporting the heritage and ethos of the Armed Forces. This factsheet provides an overview of MOD’s historic buildings and discusses their management.

As the MOD estate covers approximately 1% of the UK landmass, it is not surprising that the estate contains hundreds of historic buildings. In most cases, MOD’s historic buildings are listed and therefore protected by statute. At March 2009 the MOD estate had approximately 800 listings (equating to over 1000 buildings). However, there are also many non-designated buildings which may need to be considered as part of operational requirements or within any planning issues.

Many buildings may not be of sufficient quality to warrant listing, but never-the-less are of value to the heritage and ethos of the Services and the MOD. For example the former operations centre at RAF Northolt which was part of the first coordinated air-defence system during World War 2.

Historic buildings

MOD’s historic buildings vary greatly in age and size. They can range from military buildings and sites, whether the Georgian dockyards, Victorian army barracks or the Cold War structures of Spadeadam. There are also a wide range of non-military buildings, such as tenanted farmhouses and barns on the rural training estates, schools, churches and chapels, lighthouses and buildings within castles (such as at Edinburgh, Stirling, Chester and Carlisle).

The largest single historic structure is the tunnel complex under Corsham which stretches in total for over 30 miles. The smallest structures are the listed milestones which indicate the way along former coaching roads, or the boundary bollards which surround some historic military bases.

Whilst some structures tower into the sky, such as the Second World War ‘Chain Home’ radar tower at Stenigot, others lie just below ground level, such as the Second World War ‘Pickett-Hamilton forts’ which were ‘pop-up’ pillboxes designed to protect airfields.

Managing MOD’s historic buildings

Every site which has a listed building has in place a maintenance and inspection regime. Heritage specific inspections are carried out on a four yearly basis (Quadrennial Inspections). The renovation of the Block Mills in Portsmouth Naval Base is an excellent example, as is the re-instatement of the windows in the Keep of the 19th Century Tregantle Fort. Maintenance is an important consideration to preserve the functionality and value of the historic buildings and is regularly undertaken by sites, using specialist contractors as required.

Since the removal of Crown Immunity from the Planning Acts, MOD is required to obtain Listed Building Consent for alterations to its listed buildings which may impact on its significance. MOD consults with the appropriate authorities at an early stage regarding proposed changes. Sometimes more detailed reports are required, either about individual buildings or sites. Buildings are often recorded as a mitigation measure if substantial changes are proposed.

MOD liaises regularly with its heritage partners across the UK, for example English Heritage, Cadw and Historic Scotland, receiving advice on maintenance standards, development proposals and any designation proposals. As one of the largest heritage estate owners, MOD actively engages with the development and delivery of national historic environment policy and strategy.

It is MOD policy to follow the DCMS guidelines for the disposal of historic buildings.

Establishing a future sustainable use for historic buildings is an integral part of the disposal process.

All MOD sites have in pace a form of management plan or system which will incorporates historic environment issues present. This ranges from environmental management systems, to integrated rural management plans for the rural training areas. For sites which a high heritage value Conservation Management Plan (CMP) are increasingly being developed. CMPs assess the history of the site in detail and assign significance to different aspects enabling important decisions to be made about the site.

Volunteering associated with historic buildings on the MOD estate

Whilst the MOD has many conservation groups on its estate the maintenance of historic buildings is highly specialised and needs experts to undertake the work which is normally beyond the role of the conservation groups. However, there is always a role in finding out more about the history of sites and buildings and this can significantly add to the knowledge of sites.

MOD conservation groups

What are conservation groups?

A conservation group provides a forum in which the ecological and archaeological management of a site can be discussed with internal and external stakeholders. The group members provide the chairman with advice and guidance on species of conservation concern and habitats and identify projects that can be undertaken to manage or improve the habitats found on a site.

Are conservation groups mandatory?

It is MOD policy that a conservation group will be established at any site that has a national, European or international designation (e.g. Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area for Conservation, Special Protection Area) or wherever a site has considerable ecological or archaeological interest. Groups can also be established at any site wherever there is sufficient interest from staff.

Why are conservation groups beneficial?

With an increasing amount of environmental legislation being brought in, a conservation group provides the site management with advice and guidance on the ecological and archaeological assets to be found at a site and how these are to be managed.

With a strengthening of environmental legislation the likelihood of any site plan or activity impacting on a protected species or habitat has increased. As a result, it is necessary to have an understanding of where protected species and habitats are to be found at a site. This is achieved through the production of site sensitivity maps.

A site sensitivity map listing the protected species, habitats and archaeology could save a considerable amount of money being spent on surveys should a site require a rebuild or other major works project. Project time scales could also be significantly reduced as some surveys can only take place at certain times of the year. If the particular survey window has been missed for that year then time delays and associated costs accrue. Knowing that a tree or building has bats in situ for example can mean that appropriate mitigation action can be planned and the project can continue.

Not knowing can result in the project being brought to a halt until such time as the appropriate licences are obtained and mitigation work undertaken.

Most groups meet twice a year. The meetings usually take place in the spring and autumn as this provides an opportunity to plan management activities and review them once they have been completed. Larger groups may well also have an Annual General Meeting at which the wider membership can find out what activities any sub groups have undertaken.

Who could be a member?

Anyone who has an interest in the ecological or archaeological management of the site or carries out activities, which impact in any way on the ecology or archaeology of the site. Members of a group can be site staff, their families or interested members of the public. Sites with ecological designations, scheduled monuments or listed buildings should also include representatives from the appropriate statutory bodies or non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Sanctuary magazine and awards

Sanctuary, the MOD flagship sustainability magazine is an annual publication which illustrates the MOD’s commitment to incorporating sustainable measures such as energy saving and conservation projects of the natural and historic environment on the defence estate. It is designed for a wide audience, from the general public, to the people who work for us or volunteer as members of the MOD conservation groups.

Sanctuary started life as a newsletter in 1976 to keep the newly formed conservation groups informed of ideas and activities being carried out across the defence estate. This highly regarded publication has evolved into an on-line full colour magazine that plays an important role in our strategy to inform and promote the activities of a sustainable MOD to some 20,000 readers. Published each autumn, Sanctuary is designed for a wide internal and external audience from the general public to the people who work for us or volunteer as members of the MOD conservation groups.

We welcome contributions from a wide range of authors. Part of Sanctuary’s uniqueness comes from the variety of authors ranging from military and civilian staff, conservation group volunteers, industry partners, subject matter experts and also from external organisations and statutory bodies. Sanctuary awards

The associated Sanctuary Awards have been running since 1991 and are in recognition of both individual and group efforts for projects on MOD land in the UK and overseas. There are currently 5 categories of award:

  • environmental
  • sustainability
  • utilities
  • heritage
  • individual contribution

With the coveted Silver Otter Trophy awarded to the overall winner. The additional Sustainable Business Award is awarded to larger projects. The winners are presented their awards by the Minister for Defence Veterans, Reserves and Personnel during the annual awards ceremony held each autumn.

Contact details

If you have an interesting story or idea for the magazine, would like to find out more about the Awards or be added to the distribution please contact the Editor:

Editor (Sanctuary magazine)
Bldg 21,
Westdown Camp,

Telephone: 01980 674807

Sustainable construction on the MOD estate

This section provides an overview of DIO’s approach to sustainable construction (SC). It gives an overview of our objectives, the government policy and strategy we aim to comply with and the actions MOD is taking to achieve sustainable construction on the MOD estate. It also provides links to key documents and guidance.


Sustainable construction is construction that meets the objectives of sustainable development (SD). As a major construction industry client MOD is in a strong position to influence this important agenda with its construction stakeholders to deliver new and refurbished buildings that have less impact on the environment by:

  • being more resource efficient and reducing through-life-costs
  • using low environmental impact products and materials
  • managing and reducing waste through effective design and construction
  • providing resilience and flexibility in design, construction and operation

Sustainable construction and the government construction strategy

The government construction team works with central government departments and industry to reform the way in which government procures construction across all sectors. The strategy is designed to reduce waste, tackle bureaucracy and support economic growth through a more efficient construction industry. The government Construction Strategy was published in May 2011 and set up six Task Groups to drive forward various elements of the strategy.

The key to success is partnerships with government departments working with the main contractors and their supply chain to develop innovative solutions characterised by openness and collaboration. Defence projects should be robust, fit for purpose, flexible and sustainable, eg well-researched sustainable building solutions can yield substantial cost savings over an asset’s life.

DIO has integrated many of their design and construction policies, to encompass all the main drivers, so that defence facilities are comprehensively safe and sustainable. For further information relating to the built environment, see JSP 434 ‘Defence construction in the built environment’. The appraisal and assessment section of the SD portal describes how tools such as Sustainability Appraisal, the Defence Related Environmental Assessment Method DREAM and the Acquisition Operating Framework can be used to address sustainable construction issues.

Credits are available for effective waste management in construction Environmental Performance Tools such as DREAM, BREEAM and CEEQUAL.

Sustainable development and the MOD

Defence has an extremely important role in progressing sustainable development, which is enshrined in 2 key Principles.

Defence must be resilient to current and future environmental, social and economic threats

Defence must realise the positive and minimise the negative impacts that defence activities can have on the environment, people and the economy in the UK and overseas.

The MOD SD Strategy sets out the MOD’s contribution to addressing the challenges of SD.

To achieve the MOD’s aim, SD needs to be embedded across our estate and operations. The Chief Executive of the DIO is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of the SD strategy and supporting policy, standards, rules and guidance. CE DIO can require subject matter experts (policy leads) to lead on the production of any necessary SD policies, rules and standards and that TLB holders, Chief Executives of Trading Fund Agencies (TFAs) and other sub-strategy/process-owners are expected to comply.

SD is the responsibility of everyone in the department. The defence SD principles need to be embedded into all defence strategies, policies, decision-making processes and associated programmes, projects, activities and behaviours, which MOD is working towards.

Sustainable development advice and guidance

To aid the practical application and embedding of SD into our estate processes we have developed a range of policy products and publications. These are aimed at our staff, industry partners and contractors and the public and can be found in the publications section of this web site.

Sustainable procurement (SP) on the MOD estate

The UK government’s definition of sustainable procurement is:

“A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole-life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment” (Sustainable Procurement Taskforce, Procuring the Future, June 2006).

Sustainable procurement requires the incorporation of SD into all procurement activities to achieve long-term value for money. This requires work programmes that include:

  • specific SD contract clauses for future estate contracts
  • a whole life costs policy (i.e. production, in-use and disposal)
  • ensuring procurement staff are appropriately trained in SD

The MOD’s Acquisition Operating Framework (AOF) provides information, guidance and instruction for MOD and industry staff and reflects the SP agenda.

Sustainable development on the MOD estate

Defence has an extremely important role in progressing sustainable development (SD) and in meeting our stewardship responsibilities.

All government departments have a significant contribution to make to SD, not just through their policies and services, but also through all the day-to-day support activities. Decisions about energy, water and waste management, and the goods and services we buy, all say a great deal about our commitment to SD.

In June 2006, a set of targets for sustainable operations on the government estate (SOGE targets) (to be replaced by the sustainable development in government (SDiG) targets during 2010/11) were launched. MOD has an extremely important role in delivering these targets and SD as a whole, MOD is the third largest landowner in the country, employer of some 280,000 people, a significant consumer of energy (accounting for around 1% of total UK carbon dioxide emissions), and have an acquisition budget of around £18 billion. Contributing to meeting the SOGE SD targets will in turn deliver benefits for defence.

MOD’s and DIO’s response to the SOGE targets

The MOD SD strategy sets out the MOD’s contribution to addressing the challenges of SD. Its aim is to ensure that the MOD becomes a national leader in SD. More specifically, the strategy has been written to provide a single source of strategic direction for all SD work in the MOD.

To achieve the MOD’s aim SD needs to be embedded across our estate and operations. Our SD report and action plan 2008 sets out progress to date and objectives for change. Our progress against the government’s targets is reported publically by the Sustainability Development Commission in its independent annual report.

The DIO recognises the importance of SD and has identified how we can assist the wider MOD in achieving its aim. One of the 6 strategic aims within the defence estate strategy is “to pro-actively integrate the government’s overarching objectives for sustainable development whilst ensuring the delivery of defence capability”. We also produce a annual sustainable development action plan (SDAP) stating how we will achieve the SD targets set by government and the MOD.

DIO is committed to compliance and continual improvement in all areas of SD. Our policy is to deliver a sustainably managed estate which has modern, resource efficient, low energy usage buildings; well conserved and managed land; efficiently used space and ways of working; and has the principles of SD embedded into working practices.

Sustainable development advice and guidance

To aid the practical application and embedding of SD into our estate processes we have developed a range of policy products and publications. These are aimed at our staff, construction industry partners and contractors and the public and can be found in the publications section of this web site.

Related information within this section cover each of the key areas of the SD agenda and expand on the guidance available for each area that DIO is managing;

  • biodiversity and natural environment
  • historic environment
  • adaptation to climate change
  • sustainable communities and engagement
  • sustainable construction
  • sustainable procurement
  • waste & recycling

The processes and tools that we use;

  • sustainability and environmental tools
  • environmental management systems

Sustainable procurement on the MOD estate

This section provides an overview of sustainable procurement (SP) and outlines the policy, tools and guidance applicable to the MOD estate procurement process.

What is sustainable procurement?

The UK government’s definition of SP is:

“A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole-life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment” (Sustainable Procurement Taskforce, Procuring the Future, June 2006).

Put simply, sustainable rocurement requires the incorporation of sustainable development (SD) into all procurement activities.

Thinking about following basic questions will help ensure that defence estates’ procurement processes are sustainable:

  • is there a more environmentally friendly alternative option?
  • what materials are used in the product? Are there better alternatives?
  • is there a more resource or energy efficient way of producing the product?
  • are you really aware of what is happening in the supply chain?
  • are we inadvertently supporting exploitation of workers?
  • will any social impacts arise during production or when I use it?

Why should we procure sustainably?

SP is government and MOD policy and helps to achieve long-term value for money.

Government drivers

The Sustainable Procurement Task Force, an industry led group set up in May 2005, was charged with drawing up an action plan to bring about a step-change in sustainable public procurement in the UK. They produced a document, ‘Procuring the future’ in June 2006 which made a number of recommendations to government. One of the recommendations was the implementation and gradual achievement of a self assessment tool called the Flexible Framework.

The UK government’s response to the taskforce’s recommendations is laid out in the UK government’s SP action plan published in March 2007. This set out how the government would address SP and achieve the goal of becoming a leader in the EU by December 2009. All government departments are tasked with the achievement of the Flexible Framework.

MOD approach

SP is championed from a senior level within MOD with each Top Level Budget Holder (TLB) represented at the SP Programme Board (SPPB) which oversees SP delivery. The SP Team within Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) provides secretariat to the SPPB and is tasked with leading on SP issues for the whole of MOD. Defence estates’ role is to support the work of the SP Team by ensuring that SP is integrated into estate activities.

DE is currently working on a number of work programmes that include:

  • producing specific SD contract clauses for future estate contracts
  • developing a revised whole life costs policy and
  • ensuring procurement staff are appropriately trained in SD

The production of the ‘Integrated projects’ guide provides project teams with a step-by-step guide to integrating SD within the estate projects process. The SP ‘Practitioner guide’ has also been developed to provide an overview to SP, how it should be applied and outlines the mandatory requirements for MOD.

The MODs AOF which provides information, guidance and instruction for MOD and industry staff in acquisition has also been updated to reflect the SP agenda.

MOD sustainable procurement policy

SP Policy is outlined within chapter 17 of Joint Service Publication (JSP) 418.

MOD Procurement staff must ensure that the principles of SP are applied throughout new and existing procurement activity. All Investment Approvals Board (IAB) business cases must ensure that they address SD and SP issues. The IAB is the MOD’s senior approving authority for all high value defence projects.

It is MOD policy to implement a Whole Life Cost (or commonly termed ‘through life finance’) process. This process ensures that the MOD assesses the whole life cost of a particular procurement (ie production, in-use and disposal) rather than focussing on just the initial cost.

There are a number of key mandatory requirements to which MOD must comply, these include:

  1. ‘Buy sustainable: ‘quick wins’ product specifications
  2. Sustainable timber policy
  3. Site waste management plans
  4. Code for sustainable homes

MOD sustainable procurement targets

MODs high level objective is to:

Become a national leader in SP (by 2009)

Key Targets:

  • achieve Level 3 of the Sustainable Procurement Task Force (SPTF) National Action Plan’s Flexible Framework in all themes (and Level 5 in Engaging Suppliers) by December 2009 (government target)
  • ensure that all new contracts comply with appropriate sustainability standards, such as Office of Government Commerce’s ‘Buy Sustainable, Quick Wins’ minimum requirements
  • continue to roll out the SP charter with defence suppliers

DE Key Targets:

  • work with our industry partners to accurately report their sustainable performance against agreed set of 11 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • develop initial SP requirement for our next Generation Estate Contracts to ensure sustainable estate solutions, procured sustainably, based on whole life value
  • achieve Level 3 in all Flexible Framework themes and Level 5 in ‘engaging with suppliers’ for estate related procurement
  • continue to roll out the SP Charter with DE Suppliers and follow-up with delivery action

MOD climate change strategy

What does climate change mean for the MOD?

MOD’s climate change vision: to ensure effective delivery of defence capability that is robust to climate change and does not substantially contribute to its causes.

The effects of climate change are wide ranging and often have complex interactions; changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and changes in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves are already being felt and likely to become more apparent over the next 50 years, both in the UK and abroad.

In the UK, climate change is a government priority and the MOD, like all UK government departments, must play its part in helping the UK government deliver its climate change programme.

For the MOD, the effects of climate change pose real threats to defence’s ability to meet its strategic objectives. Priorities for consideration include:

  • the type, frequency and location of operations that the MOD might be involved in as a result of climate change
  • availability and cost of energy, products and services the MOD requires in order to operate in the future
  • the role of the MOD in co-operating with other government departments to identify and understand the global impact of climate change and its impact on the UK
  • increasing the resilience of the defence estate to cope with local effects of climate change such as flooding or subsidence;
  • compliance: reduction of the MOD’s greenhouse gas emissions in line with government targets while maintaining or preferably improving operational capability;
  • utilising the emergence of low carbon technologies to reduce dependency on fossil fuels

Climate change and sustainable development

MOD’s response to climate change is a key part of the ‘MOD sustainable development strategy’ which outlines the key SD impacts, targets and commitments and our broad approach to achieving them.

MOD and climate change: MOD’s response

Why MOD must respond to climate change.

There is real potential for climate change to impact the MOD’s ability to deliver its strategic objectives such as successful military operations, maintain forces at appropriate readiness, and build capability for the future. Conflict around the world may be exacerbated by climate change and MOD will need to be able to respond appropriately.

The domestic estate will need to adapt to the changing weather patterns experienced by the UK and the legislative and policy drivers will require the MOD to change its business in order to remain compliant.

What MOD is doing about it.

MOD’s response to climate change is outlined in the ‘MOD sustainable development strategy’ and in the ‘MOD adaptation plan update 2011’.

The strategy includes a number of key objectives that relate to climate change. Meeting those objectives throughout defence will ensure the effective delivery of defence capability that is robust to climate change while also ensuring that defence does not substantially contribute to its causes. Those climate change related objectives are:

  1. To ensure that environmental, social and economic threats, impacts and opportunities are fully taken into account in defence decisions and in the management of defence activities. The MOD is continuing to work alongside other government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop a greater understanding of how and where climate change is likely to have an impact upon security and to preserve peace and stability in those countries most affected.

  2. To significantly reduce the armed forces reliance on fossil fuels to provide equipment energy, thereby mitigating operational risk and financial risk. There is a strong internal incentive to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Not only does the reduction of fuel consumption across all business areas reduce costs and our vulnerability to energy price spikes, but reduction in fuel use at the front line has a direct benefit in reducing the logistical costs and risks of getting it to theatre.

  3. Cut Greenhouse Gas emissions from the defence estate and business related transport by 25% by 2015 from a 09/10 baseline.

All UK government departments are required to comply with ‘Greening government’ commitments requiring reductions in carbon emissions, waste and water.

Further Information about the strategic impacts of climate change on defence, see MOD’s ‘DCDC global strategic trends out to 2040’.

MOD and climate change background

What is climate change?

Climate change is the most significant environmental challenge facing the world today. It is internationally accepted that climate change is a reality and a factor that will have to be addressed for decades to come, this is most notably recognised in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment: Climate Change 2007.

In very basic terms, climate change is a result of greenhouse gasses trapping heat near the surface of the earth which would otherwise escape into space. There is strong evidence to suggest that human activities e.g. the burning of fossil fuels, are contributing to climate change and there is an urgent need to curb our greenhouse gas emissions to limit the extent of their impact.

Impact on the UK and abroad.

The UK is already vulnerable to extreme weather, including flooding and heatwaves. Under the UK Climate Change Act 2008, the government has published the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) to help better understand the risks and outline the key priorities for action by the 2020s. The reports will be used to inform development of a National Adaptation Programme which will set out the policy framework and delivery programme to support cllimate change adaptation in the UK.

Internationally, climate change will exacerbate existing problems for people in regions that are especially vulnerable to change; flooding; droughts, food shortages and the spread of disease are predicted to increase. The 2010 National Security Strategy acknowledges the threat that the “physical effects of climate change are likely to become increasingly significant as a ‘risk multiplier’ exacerbating existing tensions around the world”.

What else is the UK doing?

In the UK, climate change is a government priority with the UK Climate Change Act 2008 making the UK the first country in the world to have a national legally binding, long-term framework to cut emissions. In addition, the government has a Carbon Reduction Programme as outlined in the UK Carbon Plan published in December 2011.

All UK government departments, including MOD, are subject to the UK ‘Greening government’ commitments which set targets for reductions in greenhouse gasses, water and waste by 2015.

Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 16 January 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated MOD conservation groups section.

  2. Update the Deer management section.

  3. Updated Biodiversity and Nature Conservation section.

  4. Added information on climate change strategy.

  5. First published.