Powers in Place: Nature

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Local Powers
Our new landmark report spotlights how local authorities are pioneering nature recovery initiatives, despite facing a “dysfunctional” policy and funding environment. The report calls for more consistency, priority and investment from Ministers.

Download the report now: bit.ly/UK100PowersInPlaceNature

Powers in Place: Nature is the most comprehensive assessment of local authorities’ duties and powers to restore nature and biodiversity. It also underscored the urgent nature crisis in the UK.

The crisis in numbers

  • The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with 99.7% of fens, 97% of species-rich grasslands, 80% of lowland heathlands, up to 70% of ancient woodlands and up to 85% of salt marshes destroyed or degraded
  • One in five Brits live in areas deprived of green space while one in nine children have not visited a park, forest or natural environment in the last year
  • Since the 1970s, 41% of all UK species studied have declined while 26% of the UK’s mammals are at risk of extinction

The report argues these figures are not just numbers; they're a clarion call for immediate action.

Trailblazing local authorities

From planning to peatland, the report showcases innovative UK100 member councils answering the call and blazing a trail on nature recovery, including:

  • Oxfordshire County Council’s climate adaptation policies prioritising the natural world
  • Oldham Council’s ambitious Northern Roots urban eco park development
  • Gloucestershire County Council’s biodiversity guidance for highways planning

“Dysfunctional” barriers to action

However, Powers in Place: Nature concludes these pioneering efforts are exceptional, with local authorities' nature recovery ambitions too often hampered by constrained resources, “dysfunctional” policies, and short-term, competitive funding. 

The report cautions ministers must provide a consistent policy framework, long-term investment, and more strategic coordination to empower local leadership to lead the charge on nature recovery.


The Powers in Place: Nature report was produced for UK100 by researchers who gathered information from local authorities across England and reviewed legislation, powers and duties relating to the natural environment.

It builds on UK100’s previous Powers in Place: The handbook of local authority Net Zero powers report on councils’ climate powers and Local Net Zero Delivery Progress Report on Nature.

Taken together, the reports set out a blueprint for the government to back local leadership on nature recovery and Net Zero by providing consistent funding, streamlining existing duties and policies, and introducing a Net Zero Local Powers Bill.

The Powers in Place: Nature report calls for:

  • Consistency for Nature: clear, coherent and connected policies and financial incentives for nature alongside Net Zero
  • Priority for Nature: strengthen how nature is protected in planning and across all council services
  • Funding for Nature: reform, competitive local authority funding to provide long-term investment to deliver on nature recovery

Voices from the frontline

Christopher Hammond, UK100 Chief Executive, says:

"Our report demonstrates that for too long nature has been an afterthought, which is why we’ve sleepwalked into becoming one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Powers in Place: Nature shows that while local leaders may have untapped powers to restore nature — as evidenced by the innovative work of councils from Oxfordshire to Oldham — their efforts are undermined by dysfunctional policy and guidance and a proliferation of short-term, disjointed and competitive local authority funding pots.

“Ministers need to back local authorities to lead the charge on nature recovery by providing a consistent policy framework, long-term funding and clear strategy.

"Councils are the key to the revival of our vital wildlife and green spaces and the interrelated fight against the climate crisis, but they desperately need more support."

Cllr Richard Clewer, Chair of UK100's Countryside Climate Network and Leader of Wiltshire Council, agrees:

"Local authorities are crucial to bringing our natural world back from the brink. Our planning teams, highways officers, rangers and volunteers are all vital in protecting our wildlife and making space for nature to recover and thrive."

"Local leaders are already blazing a trail up and down the UK, from Cheshire to Wiltshire. But we urgently need ministers to provide proper long-term funding and a coherent policy framework so all parts of local government can work together to tackle the nature crisis."

Cllr Pete Sudbury, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment at Oxfordshire County Council, adds: 

“Here in Oxfordshire, we’re acutely aware of the urgent need for going beyond nature restoration to support and enhance the natural world as we overshoot 1.5C . We’re already making strides through our emerging climate adaptation policy in putting the natural world at the heart of our defences against extreme climate impacts, with policies on trees and canopy cover, verges and dark skies to protect critical climate infrastructure, and more. 

“However, as the new Powers in Place: Nature report makes abundantly clear, large-scale rapid action requires long-term funding and a cohesive approach from Ministers. Tackling the nature crisis across the UK can’t be done on the backs of trailblazers alone.”

Download the report now: bit.ly/UK100PowersInPlaceNature