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Natural England finances squeezed by Government making biodiversity protection challenging

Natural England has written to the Environmental Audit Committee setting out how funding cuts has resulted in many of its workstreams protecting UK biodiversity coming to an end.

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Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, appeared before the Committee in October as part of the inquiry on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Within the evidence session, Mr Juniper explained that the organisation’s current funding is below the level required to carry out its statutory duties to a good standard. The risks of which could be subjecting Natural England to legal challenges and lost opportunities to enhance the environment.

Taking action to protect species at risk of extinction, ceasing management duties for National Nature Reserves and engaging only a small number of planning authorities to support landscape and biodiversity activities are some of the areas Natural England has had to scale back support.

In his letter, Mr Juniper suggests that if Natural England received more funding, these schemes would not need to be scaled back.

Natural England has bid for enhanced funding in this Spending Review, expected to be announced later this month.

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, recently said:

“Natural England is one of the key organisations responsible for maintaining and protecting UK wildlife. Funding restrictions limiting crucial roles such as monitoring nature can have a negative impact on the UK’s biodiversity, and as my Committee has recently heard, could hamper the success of Government policies in this area.

“There are up to 1 million plant and animal species at risk of extinction worldwide, and Natural England’s to-do list is ever increasing. That is why they need the funds required to do the jobs they are tasked to do.

“We have heard how the Government aspires to be an environmental world leader, not just in the year it hosts COP26; and that it also wants a green economic recovery from coronavirus. A good start for biodiversity would be by responding positively to Natural England’s request in the upcoming Spending Review.”

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