The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

The act created Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities.


The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC Act) received Royal Assent on March 30 2006.

Amongst other measures, it created a ‘Biodiversity Duty’ to ensure due regard to the conservation of biodiversity, as was set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act (2000), to public bodies and statutory undertakers.

This Duty applies to 

  • all local authorities
  • community, parish and town councils
  • police, fire and health authorities
  • utility companies

Section 41 of the NERC Act refers to a published list of habitats and species which are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England.

The Worcestershire’s Biodiversity Action Plan, identifies those national ‘priority’ habitats and species considered to be of particular importance here in Worcestershire.

What the Biodiversity Duty means for Worcestershire County Council?

The biodiversity duty set out in Section 40 of the NERC Act, has now been further strengthened through the Environment Act (2021), which states that:

"A public authority which has any functions exercisable in relation to England must from time to time consider what action the authority can properly take, consistently with the proper exercise of its functions, to further the general biodiversity objective".

This ‘general biodiversity objective’ requires both the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity. 

Public authorities must then take these proposed actions to further the general biodiversity objective and are required to periodically report on these actions.

Worcestershire County Council has undertaken its first consideration of relevant functions which contribute towards our strengthened statutory biodiversity duty. 

These include the maintenance of public rights of way and highways, the way which we manage public land in our stewardship, and how biodiversity is considered in the planning processes. You can download our report detailing our first considerations.

Government guidance

The Government has produced further guidance for public authorities on Complying with the biodiversity duty and Reporting your biodiversity duty actions.

Useful links

For further information or to request an accessible version of this report contact the Ecology Service Team.

Biodiversity Duty: Legal Requirements and Actions, January 2024 (PDF)

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