The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) has welcomed the proposed introduction of conservation covenants in England and Wales, but warns that additional detail will be required before their potential to support biodiversity net gain can be realistically assessed.
Conservation covenants are long-term, voluntary agreements on what a landowner will, or will not, do on their land for a purpose which serves the public good. It is expected that housing developers will be able to encourage landowners to enter these covenants enabling them to demonstrate biodiversity net gain which will be a key requirement of future housing developments. As such, they form a crucial part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the UK Government’s strategy to meeting its ambitious 300,000 a year target for new homes, while delivering wins for the environment.
The CLA, which represents more than 30,000 rural landowners in England and Wales, argues in its response, that without additional detail on the proposed length, administration and tax implications of conservation covenants, it is difficult to assess how many landowners will be likely to enter into these long-term agreements. It also reasons that further details are needed around the enforcement regime that should be developed and the system of oversight.
Harry Greenfield, CLA’s senior land use policy adviser said: “Conservation covenants could help to unlock net gain for biodiversity and realise the ambitions of the National Planning Policy Framework. However, without additional detail it remains to be seen whether rural landowners will be attracted to the concept in sufficient numbers in order for this to be the case.
“The CLA supports their introduction and believes they have the capacity to benefit landowners, society and the environment. The issue is to what degree? We need Defra to continue to work up the proposals, in partnership with landowners, to help the Government to meet its ambitious housing and environmental goals.”