Headlines: October 2nd, 2006



From this week all public bodies will have to take issues of biodiversity into account in all the work that they do. The new duty comes into effect under Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, which sets out to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales.

The intention of this part of the Act is that eventually biodiversity issues will become second nature to everyone making decisions in the public sector. More than 900 public bodies will be affected, including all English and Welsh local authorities, fire, police and health bodies as well as museums, transport authorities and even the BBC.

The responsible central government department – DEFRA – has already been working in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Association of Local Government Ecologists, English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Welsh Assembly and Wildlife and Countryside Link to develop guidance to help all the public sector bodies affected by the new law to fulfill their responsibilities. Because of the important role of local government in conserving and enhancing biodiversity, councils will get their own set of guidelines with a second, more generic, tranche of guidance being issued for all other public bodies. Both sets will be produced in paper and electronic versions and are expected to be available early in 2007.

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act was granted Royal Assent last March and delivers key elements of the Government’s Rural Strategy. It is seen as being an essential part of DEFRA’s Modernising Rural Delivery Programme. In addition to setting up the new agencies, Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities, it will implement a number of improvements for wildlife, habitat, national parks and rights of way legislation.