Who are we working with – our partners and stakeholders
The development of the Strategy will be locally led and collaborative. The project will work with those that own and manage the land; those that influence how biodiversity is protected and enhanced; those that use and depend on nature’s services; and those that inform and make decisions. By being informed by stakeholders’ priorities, data, information and knowledge, we will create a strategy that presents a plan for joined-up action to recover our county’s nature.
Kent is a big county and alongside the unitary authority Medway Council and Kent County Council, (the upper tier local authority), there are 12 district and borough authorities, plus Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (funded by and reporting to the Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities). In addition there are numerous town and parish councils, which come together under the umbrella of the Kent Association of Local Councils (or KALC).
The district and borough authorities, along with Medway Council produce local plans which will need to be informed by the Nature Recovery Strategy when complete. Under regulation they need to have regard to them in complying with the strengthened biodiversity duty. These authorities know their local area and will be integral to the success of the Nature Recovery Strategy.
On the Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway Board, local authorities are represented by Kent County Council, Medway Council, and the Kent Chief Planners Chair (representing the district and boroughs). Many other individuals from across all these local authorities are represented across the Delivery Group and various Stakeholder Engagement Groups.
Nature Recovery also requires coordination over strategy area border, so Kent County Council are also working with East Sussex County Council, Surrey County Council, Greater London Authority and Essex County Council.
Kent and Medway has two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Kent Downs AONB and the High Weald AONB, which together cover well over a third of the county, including a lot of ancient chalk grassland and ancient woodland.
The primary objective of AONBs is not to protect nature, but to protect the land to conserve and enhance its natural beauty. These areas are strongly linked of course and there will be considerable opportunities for nature recovery in these areas.
Both AONB’s will be represented on both the Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway Board and the Delivery Group.
In producing the Nature Recovery Strategy, Kent County Council works closely on the advice of Natural England, but also meets regularly with the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission to get their views on progress in terms of strategy development. In addition the data and expertise of these agencies is vital to the process.
Other Government bodies and agencies engaged in Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway include Historic England, the Marine Management Organisation, Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Defence, the latter also being an important landowner.
Nature conservation charities/organisations
The knowledge and expertise of these charities and bodies will be fundamental to a successful Nature Recovery Strategy and they are a wide-ranging group. The Kent Nature Partnership, hosted by Kent County Council has developed good relationships with these organisations over the years, which provides a strong basis for development of the nature recovery strategy. The Kent & Medway LNRS will be developed outside the KNP official framework but will rely heavily on the established partnership links.
Some bodies such as the Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB are also significant landowners in Kent and Medway and also fall into the category of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations.
Many such as Butterfly Conservation, Plant life and those mentioned above have nature recovery as their primary purpose, while others such as the Countryside Management Partnerships, also serve the community and manage land for other bodies such as the Environment Agency.
Some of these nature conservation charities and bodies are represented on the Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway Board and Delivery Group while others are involved in the Technical Advisory Groups and Stakeholder Engagement Groups. Their presence is particularly important on the Data evidence and mapping group and Habitats and species group.
Agriculture and Land Management
Kent and Medway is still largely an agricultural area, so a huge proportion of the opportunities for nature recovery fall into this category, in addition landowners and farmers know their landscapes better than anyone and their involvement will be essential to a successful Nature Recovery Strategy.
Farmers are now recognising the benefits of regenerative farming and good soil health, which also benefits nature. Many have been involved in countryside stewardship and are embarking on Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELM) which provide positive outcomes to nature, as well as public goods and services. The Nature Recovery Strategy will help to channel ELM funding.
In addition, land managers are diversifying, with some benefiting from carbon and net gain markets, as well as deploying nature-based solutions to address issues such as flood risk mitigation and managing the impacts of climate change on their land.
Increasingly farmers are seeing the benefits of working in partnership with their neighbours to share ideas and achieve outcomes both for profit and for nature. This “farmer cluster” approach is now taking place in areas across Kent and Medway, with organisations including the wildlife trusts and the water companies coordinating various clusters.
As overarching bodies, both the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) and the NFU (National Farmers Union) are on the Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway Board, while there is also Stakeholder Engagement Group for Landowners, farmers and managers. Land agents and surveyors are also an important part of the picture and are represented in this grouping.
Recreation and access
Tourism, leisure, sport, walking, cycling, angling are some of the areas that fall into this category which is important for two main reasons – access and connection.
Access to the countryside whether through walking and cycling routes, or to green and blue spaces is important for people’s health and wellbeing but can also create pressure on the natural environment, so these opportunities and risks need to be picked up in a Nature Recovery Strategy, to ensure the best outcomes for nature and people.
This work sits alongside and is informed by existing national and local green and blue infrastructure strategies and initiatives.
The evidence suggests that having a connection with nature through these and other opportunities, greatly increase the willingness for people to act for nature as well as improving their wellbeing, so good access is vital in terms of both the current and the next generation of nature enthusiasts.
Water and energy companies fall into this category, all of which have a big impact on the natural environment, or dependency on it.
Dealing with both waste water and drinking water, the five water companies operating in Kent and Medway have priorities which often overlap with nature recovery in terms of water quality and management. However, there are still cases of pollution occurring, including from sewer overflows or from system failures. Increasingly water companies are looking to nature-based solutions to address issues around water quality and supply, including the use of woodland management, to slow the flow of water and the creation of leaky woody dams.
Renewable energy is a big business in Kent and Medway, with both offshore and onshore wind farms, plus solar projects, and considerations around tidal energy schemes. These projects represent a change in the natural environment wherever infrastructure is in place, so engagement is important.
The above groups are represented in a specific Utilities Stakeholder Engagement Group.
Kent and Medway’s highways have their own natural environment in terms of roadside verges. Management of these areas, along with other land owned by both National Highways and Kent County Council, is making a positive contribution to nature recovery. In addition, national schemes such as the proposed Lower Thames Crossing (LTC), which if goes ahead would have a huge impact on the natural environment, has the potential to provide large scale environmental mitigation. National Highways are already contributing millions of pounds through their Designated Funds programme towards environmental mitigation projects in the LTC area.
Kent has a number of Universities and academic establishments, some of which, including University of Greenwich campus at Chatham and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent, Canterbury, have a particular environmental focus.
Whether its innovative ideas, data and research or graduate placements, these institutions have a lot to offer in the development of a Nature Recovery Strategy.
In addition, environmental programmes both in and outside of schools, are vital in terms of engaging young people and ensuring the next generation are taking an active part in nature recovery.
Engagement of the local community will ensure the Nature Recovery Strategy reflects local priorities in terms of nature recovery and wider environmental issues. This engagement is designed to build upon the environmental issues that affect residents and reach out to a wide range of local interest and community groups including those who are underrepresented.
Various Friends groups and Residents groups will be important here, so it’s not all about nature groups however the wildlife recording groups do also fall into this category.
Community groups are well represented across the various Stakeholder Engagement Groups.
Kent and Medway is an area of high development for both housing and industry. Where that development takes place, how it is carried out in terms of design sensitive to nature and how the wider impacts on nature are mitigated are big questions for the government, the planning system and will also be an important consideration for the Nature Recovery Strategy.
In addition developers will use the Nature Recovery Strategy when identifying locations for offsite biodiversity net gain compensation, which will present a big opportunity for nature recovery in an area such as Kent and Medway, with so much development taking place.
With its setting on the doorstep of both London and Europe, Kent and Medway is an area of high social and economic activity featuring a wide range of business and industry.
The agricultural sector is huge, with organisations such as Produced in Kent looking to ensure locally produced food is sold within the county, but there are many other forms of trade and commerce, linked both to the resident population and leisure market.
In addition, industries relating to mineral extraction have an impact on the natural environment but also have a key role in nature recovery in terms of the widely adopted “Nature after minerals” approach, following extraction on a particular site.
The Kent and Medway coastal and intertidal area is extensive and rich in biodiversity, with habitats ranging from blue mussel beds and ross worm reefs to saltmarsh, mudflats, chalk reefs and vegetated shingle. This contributes to the wider UK marine environment, which has the widest range of marine habitats of any coastal waters in Europe.
Kent’s seas are some of the busiest in the world, particularly Dover Strait. Shipping for trade and leisure takes place, plus multiple offshore industries operate, including renewables, telecommunications, electrical cabling, and aggregates extraction. Kent has significant heritage assets on the coast, including historic castles, dockyards, and ports, which, along with the natural environment, play an important part in our visitor economy. There is a lot of work going on in this area and in the creative economy on the coast.
The Nature Recovery Strategy will only be statutory to the low tide mark, but presents a significant opportunity to address nature recovery on the coast and to address integration between catchment and coastal management. As described above, coastal, and marine stakeholders are a varied and complex group, but a specific Coastal and Marine Stakeholder Engagement Group will bring representatives from these organisations together.
The link between health and nature is now widely recognised, with regular access to nature dramatically improving health outcomes. This is part of what is known as wider determinates and it is known that the health care system is only responsible for 20% of health outcomes, while wider determinants, including, jobs home life and (amongst other things) time spent in the natural environment, is responsible for 80% of health outcomes.
To achieve outcomes in this area, people need better quality, accessible natural space, and green infrastructure close to where they live and work. This is something being addressed to an extent by the planning system and will be an important aspect of Biodiversity Net Gain, areas for which the Nature Recovery Strategy will help to determine.
Many people with poor health do not have this access to or are not inclined to get out onto nature, so initiatives such as green social prescribing are proving a popular way to address this issue. This requires coordination between GPs, link workers and providers, as well as being dependent on quality green space where people can, for example, hear birdsong or see wild flowers and butterflies.
Explore Kent, Kent Public Health the NHS, Kent Wildlife Trust, and other groups are working on ways to fill the gaps in green social prescribing provision. These groups and others will be represented on the Access and Connection Stakeholder Engagement Group.
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