National Landscapes welcome strengthened duty for natural beauty

National Landscapes welcome strengthened duty for natural beauty

National Landscapes welcome the strengthened duty for relevant authorities to ‘seek to further’ their purposes, which comes into force on 26 December 2023. There is still work to be done, but we hope this new duty will mark a step-change in catalysing organisations to work together to conserve and enhance natural beauty.

(c) Graham Cooper Forest of Bowland NL - Bowland Fells (c) Graham Cooper

On 26th December 2023, a new duty will come into force in English National Landscapes. This duty says that all ‘relevant authorities’ (generally, those with a public function), ‘must seek to further the purposes’ of the designated landscape; for National Landscapes, this purpose is conserving and enhancing natural beauty. This duty features in Section 245 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, which gained Royal Assent on 26 October 2023 – and it overrides and strengthens the previous duty to ‘have regard’ to the purposes. This new duty has great potential to catalyse organisations to work together to protect and improve these nationally valuable places, so they can play a significant role in delivering the UK Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP23).

National Landscapes Association recommended this strengthened duty in our submission to the Landscapes Review. We are thrilled that Government is willing to create greater safeguards for the UK’s Protected Areas, and we welcome this positive step towards achieving the National Landscape Association’s core missions to ‘Make beautiful landscapes better’ and ‘Equip powerful coalitions to deliver’.

There is still much work to be done to understand what the duty will mean for organisations in practice, but it is generally expected to galvanise the work of the National Landscape teams, in their essential role convening and enabling partners to deliver for nature. National Landscapes Association is engaging with Government to help understand what this means in reality, and teams on the ground now need to be specifically empowered to bring organisations from all different sectors together for the benefit and improvement of these landscapes in the public interest.