Under the 2021 Environment Act, public authorities (including town and parish councils) operating in England must consider what they can do to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
Government guidance published on 17 May 2023 clarifies that, as a public authority, town and
parish councils must:
- consider what they can do to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
- agree policies and specific objectives based on their consideration.
- act to deliver their policies and achieve their objectives.
Town and parish councils, unlike other authorities, are not obliged to publish a report on their
actions, but the Government guidance requires all public authorities to complete their first
consideration of what action to take for biodiversity by 1 January 2024. They must agree their
policies and objectives as soon as possible after this and must reconsider the selected actions
within five years of completing their previous consideration, or more frequently if they choose.
To comply with the guidance, town and parish councils could as a minimum:
- have biodiversity as an agenda item for a meeting before the end of 2023.
- note what action they are already taking to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
- agree what further steps they should take to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
Such steps may include:
- reviewing what biodiversity or nature recovery plans are already in place from other local authorities, e.g. potential for jointly-supported wildlife corridors.
- making contact with local voluntary groups working on nature conservation.
- carrying out a biodiversity audit of council landholdings and/or the whole council area, potentially involving residents in a “BioBlitz”
- gathering expert advice on possible actions in support of biodiversity, such as from Caring for God’s Acre and the Eco Church initiative in respect of churchyards
- drafting an action plan that covers action that the council will take itself as well as support for the actions of other local bodies.
Whatever action is agreed, as a minimum local councils could ensure they address biodiversity
concerns when commenting on planning applications.