On Friday, a joint statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and government advisor Natural England said that five authorities would receive a share of £1 million of funding to set up LNRS pilots "to help map the most valuable sites and habitats for wildlife in their area and identify where nature can be restored".
A spokeswoman for Defra confirmed to Planning that the authorities involved are: Buckinghamshire Council, Northumberland County Council, Cumbria County Council and Cornwall Council.
The spokeswoman added that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will also take part in the pilot but there had been "no delegation" to an individual council at this stage.
LNRSs are due to be included in the government's forthcoming Environment Bill.
Last summer, a Defra consultation response document said that the bill "will introduce new duties to support better spatial planning for nature through the creation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs). The intention is that the whole of England will be covered by LNRSs with no gaps or overlaps".
The document said the strategies would provide evidence to support plan-making, but that "it will continue to be the case that the development plan itself is the principal document at the heart of the planning system, and that planning decisions must be taken in line with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise".
Last week's statement said that each LNRS pilot would:
- develop "a set of maps which show most valuable existing sites and habitats for wildlife";
- use these maps "to identify opportunities for recovering nature – for wildlife, for people, and as a contribution to tackling climate change and improving the environment";
- bring "a broad range of groups of people together to identify and agree priorities for restoring nature".
It added: "The pilots will enable local authorities to set out their local priorities for restoring and linking up habitats so species can thrive, and agree the best places to help nature recover, plant trees, restore peatland, mitigate flood and fire risk, and create green spaces for local people to enjoy".
The Environment Bill has reached committee stage in the House of Commons, but its progress has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Parliament website, the committee is scheduled to report on the bill by Tuesday 29 September 2020.
After this, it would return to the House of Commons for a third reading, before moving to the House of Lords.