New guidance published on conservation covenants

2nd December 2022

Conservation covenants were introduced by the Environment Act 2021 and can be a useful tool in the environmental change toolkit. This new type of agreement is to be entered into between a landowner and a designated responsible body for a conservation purpose.

Local Authorities need to consider their role, whether they become a responsible body, and whether they have the resources to monitor and enforce conservation covenants.

In June 2022, we blogged about the role of local authorities in conservation covenants – including that they will need to make an application and be considered “suitable” in order to become a responsible body.

The Government has published guidance on the use of conservation covenants, with a helpful section on the roles and responsibilities of designated responsible bodies – including that they must:

  • register the covenant on the appropriate local land charges register;
  • submit an annual return; and
  • make sure the conservation covenant is created with the aim to conserve (protect, restore or enhance) the natural or heritage features of the land and be for the public good.

Local authorities who decide to become responsible bodies will therefore need to ensure they have the resources to monitor and enforce conservation covenants.

Specific guidance is still awaited from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on how to become a responsible body. This is expected by the end of 2022.

In the meantime, DEFRA has set up a specific email for bespoke queries on conservation covenants: [email protected].

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