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Natural Environment White Paper

a growing plant unfurling

An invitation to shape the nature of England

Our natural environment underpins our economic prosperity, our health and our wellbeing. As a result, protecting the environment and enhancing biodiversity is one of Defra’s top three priorities, as outlined in the Department’s Business Plan.

A key commitment under this priority is the publication of a White Paper on the natural environment by spring 2011. On 26 July 2010 we published our discussion paper “An invitation to shape the Nature of England”. We invited all comments and submissions from anyone with an interest in the Natural Environment White Paper.

The consultation closed on 30 October 2010, with over 15,000 responses. This was an exceptional level of response and we are extremely grateful to all those who took the time to share their views and ideas with us.

“We have had a hugely positive response to the discussion document and online survey, with over 15,000 responses. This represents an unprecedented level of public engagement and I’m extremely grateful to all those who took the time to share their ideas with us. We are now taking account of these views to help inform our White Paper and look forward to sharing it in Spring 2011.” (Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State)

We have read and analysed all the submissions and have produced factual summaries of the responses, setting out the key themes from both the discussion document consultation and the short on-line survey.  These can be found below:

We also held a series of stakeholder workshops over the autumn, which generated a large number of ideas for the White Paper. An overview of the outputs from these workshops is available:

All these responses will feed into the development of the Natural Environment White Paper, which we look forward to sharing with you in Spring 2011.

Grass roots engagement

We wanted to ensure that all interested parties had a say in shaping the development of the White Paper.  To do this, we invited small local groups, or organisations with grassroots memberships, to send us their thoughts.  In November 2010, we published some resources to help facilitate discussions in order to generate ideas.  A cross-section of organisations and groups replied, representing a range of backgrounds and experiences.  We would like to thank all those that took the time to reply and for the experiences and ideas that were shared with us.  We are now considering the contributions we received alongside our work in drafting the White Paper.


The White Paper on the natural environment will be a bold and ambitious statement outlining the government’s vision for the natural environment, backed up with practical action to deliver that ambition. It represents an opportunity to change the way we think about and manage the natural environment, seeing it as a system and valuing the services it gives us.

We have made significant progress in tackling environmental degradation in the past 20 years, significantly reducing levels of environmental pollution in our air and water and providing protection for our most precious wildlife sites.

However, changing and increasing pressures on our environment continue to cause degradation (which in turn has social and economic impacts) and managing these pressures is becoming more challenging.

A more systematic, strategic approach is needed that brings together a wider range of players, provides new options to tackle these challenges efficiently and effectively. This requires, and will encourage, a wider understanding of the value of the natural environment to society and the economy.

In order to achieve this, the process of developing the White Paper will be accompanied by a wide-ranging process of stakeholder engagement. This Big Society approach to policy development will allow individuals and communities to contribute innovative ideas on how their local environment can be protected and enhanced.

Panel of environmental experts

Richard Benyon has established a panel of environmental experts to advise him in the development of the White Paper.

Further information

If you require more information on the Natural Environment White Paper, please contact the Natural Environment White Paper team at:

Page last modified: 23 February 2011