The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC Act) received Royal Assent on March 30 2006. The act created Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities and, amongst other measures, it extended the biodiversity duty set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act to public bodies and statutory undertakers to ensure due regard to the conservation of biodiversity.

The Duty is set out in Section 40 of the NERC Act, and states that:

"Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity"

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

The Duty applies to all local authorities, community, parish and town councils, police, fire and health authorities and utility companies.

Local Authorities in the West Midlands were encouraged to sign up to the Biodiversity Pledge to demonstrate their commitment to fulfilling the biodiversity duty.

Government guidance

The Government has produced guidance on implementing the Duty, contained in two publications. The first is for Local Authorities and the second for other Public Bodies.