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Gove launches environmental covenents plan

The government will introduce legally binding conservation covenants that protect the UK’s natural habitat, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.

The covenants, already used successfully in other countries, would allow landowners to make a public commitment to take positive actions to preserve and improve their trees, land, woodland or meadows.

They would be binding on future owners of the land and would be overseen by Natural England to ensure land management obligations are delivered.

Defra has now launched a consultation on how best to introduce the covenants and has invited landowners to have their say.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: ‘Conservation covenants are a valuable new tool to help protect our precious countryside. They allow landowners to safeguard nature on their land, securing long-term benefits and enabling vital investment in future conservation.

‘These plans are a further step in our ambition to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. I urge people to have their say on the proposals, which we are considering for our forthcoming Environment Bill.’

Defra say the following scenarios are likely to involve the use of conservation covenants:

  • Altruistic uses
  • Securing heritage sites
  • An alternative to land purchase by conservation organisations
  • Disposals of land by conservation organisations
  • Payment for ecosystem services
  • Net gain for biodiversity

Matthew Darby, landowner, farmer and trustee of the Kemerton Conservation Trust added: ‘I’ve always wanted to protect some of the special parts of my farm forever – places with a bit of magic that deserve to be enjoyed by future generations.

‘Conservation covenants could provide part of the answer. I see them acting as a bridge between landowners and those paying for public goods. I could invest this sum back into the farming business so that my family could continue to live on the land and care for it.’

Yesterday, Natural England published analysis which calculated that National Nature Reserves (NNRs) offer £36m worth of economic, environmental and societal benefits.

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