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Inspiring and enabling communities: the Integrated Local Delivery model for localism and the environment

Chris Short, Senior Research Fellow at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, describes how the Integrated Local Delivery model, developed by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), can inspire and enable communities to help meet national environmental targets and obligations, answering a key call of Defra’s recent Natural Environment White Paper.


At the core of the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) is a call for a more integrated approach in the management and governance of the English countryside.

This call is evident in NEWP initiatives, such as the Local Nature Partnerships and Nature Improvement Areas, where stakeholders in areas relating to agriculture, enterprise, health and wellbeing are encouraged to join strategic and delivery discussions on improving the quality of the environment. A two-way exchange is essential to establish a shared vision. 

One such example has been developed in Gloucestershire by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and evaluated by the Countryside & Community Research Institute (CCRI) with funding from Natural England. The Integrated Local Delivery (ILD) model has also been presented to Jim Paice MP, Minster for Agriculture, included on the RDPE Network as a case study in best practice, and fed into the NEWP.

The Integrated Local Delivery model

So what underpins the ILD model?

Environmental land management initiatives tend to be top-down, driven by large institutions citing national legislation, policy obligations and international directives and conventions. Local communities, including farmers, who often feel protective of the natural assets within their vicinity (that may also make a considerable contribution to a local sense of identity), may feel alienated from the imposition of targets from whose formulation they have been excluded. Yet these communities frequently have essential knowledge, experience and a sense of pride and commitment to the future survival of such areas.

Furthermore the range of national organisations, strategies and policy frameworks can sometimes end up working against each other in a particular area. This is particularly true of complex sites and issues with a wide range of legal obligations and other interests. In such multi-objective areas there is a need for greater connectivity at all levels to enable synergy on the ground. This lack of co-ordination, coherence and integration at the national (and even regional) level results in a series of confusing, disjointed and contradictory signals and mechanisms for those who live and work close to these areas and, most importantly, have the capacity to assist in their management and governance.

The ILD model developed by FWAG, has been implemented in a range of situations that utilises and enables those with local skills and environmental land management knowledge that contributes to the management of sensitive and key environmental sites.

Outline of the Integrated Delivery Model Approach

There are 8 key themes to the ILD model, which:

  • Works within the lowest appropriate National and European administrative structure (parish or ward, town, county, district, region, country);
  • Clarifies which statutory and non-statutory partners have an interest in the area so that they can be involved and their strategic aims and objectives identified and delivered within that administrative area;
  • Seeks to deliver a wide range of strategic objectives within the defined area in order to maximise the wider landscape scale potential effective use of public funds;
  • Seeks to strongly support and value the role and knowledge of the farming community;
  • Promotes the use of facilitation through an independent third party to develop a local management group that acts as the collective discussion forum for the area, with clear lines of communication to those public agencies with legal responsibilities;
  • Incorporates the parish council (or other local government framework) into the communication structure of the local management group to ensure continuity beyond project timescales;
  • Provides a forum for all those within the defined area to take action and offer knowledge and resource to achieve multi-objective delivery with an inclusive list of partners;
  • Identifies funding opportunities, particularly through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), and match funding through joined up partnership working.

The ILD model uses a 6 stage process of facilitation, involving all partner organisations with an interest in a particular area to inspire and enable action from local landowners and neighbouring communities.

Step 1 Once invited begin initial scoping to determine the area, individuals and statutory frameworks involved
Step 2 Map the management tasks and verify these in an inclusive and open format
Step 3 Develop a management group around key local and statutory stakeholders
Step 4 Encourage linkages and opportunities for local contribution and adoption of responsibilities
Step 5 Establish capacity and role of local management group; identify and prioritise tasks
Step 6 Implement proposals and embed management group and support

The first part of the scoping phase is to gather information on the key natural assets and characteristics within the inner circle (a), the agreed area of interest. Next move to the middle circle (b), and record all the regional strategic frameworks that could be delivered within the defined central area. Finally move to the outer circle (c), representing the national and in some respects international strategic and policy frameworks relating to the inner circle (a). This should provide a good grasp of the range of physical assets and the associated frameworks at the local, regional and national level.

ILD diagram

The next part of the scoping is to identify the contacts responsible for delivery of these frameworks.  This is done in reverse order (d to f), because a secondary aim here is to make the connections from the national and regional to the local level.  So the aim at the national level (outer circle) is to identify the person (d) with responsibility for delivering the legal obligation associated with a designation or policy objective (c).

The ILD model in action: Walmore Common

One area where the ILD model have been used to secure sustainable local management is the area around Walmore Common, near Westbury and part of the floodplain of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.

Walmore CommonWalmore Common (photo © Copyright Kevin Gilman and
licensed for reuse under Creative Commons licence)

The area is part of a network of smaller catchments that are low lying and close to the main river and drain into it through a series of ditches. The area has multiple designations at international (Ramsar and SPA) and national level (SSSI) due to its geology (lowland submerged peat) and ecology (overwintering of Berwick Swans and nesting of wading birds).

There are two clear national interests and legal obligations – flood prevention and environmental protection – meaning that the State does not speak with a single voice on Walmore. In 2008, a series of one-to-one discussions, open meetings, site walks and other examples of direct communication between the FWAG officer, interested NGOs and agencies and the local farmers were introduced. Using the ILD model the full range of assets in the wider Walmore area was established.

Each environmental feature generates a petal of integrated delivery with the defined administrative area.

Walmore Case Study ILD Flower

Walmore Case Study Integrated Local Delivery Flower

This resulted in the development of the Walmore Common Management group, which identified a number and range of tasks, the most straightforward of which have already been implemented. This is a clear contrast to the inactivity of previous years. Different types of knowledge, for example surrounding the hydrology, are now more widely recognised by a wider range of interests, although this is not always the case. Crucially, most people feel listened to, or at least taken seriously.

Overall, there is agreement that the situation around Walmore is now closer to a shared vision, with both locals and agency staff agreeing that communication is clearer.  The management group is seen as a source of accurate information on what is actually happening, thus replacing hearsay. The actions of the group and the transparent, accountable and effective nature of the meetings mean that the agencies are more confident that their legal requirements and obligations can be met locally. Conversely, the local community is beginning to take collective responsibility for management that will meet national targets and obligations as well as meeting other concerns such as flooding and access provision.

One of the major changes that the approach has brought about is the number of surrounding landowners participating in Environmental Stewardship, mostly the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme that will deliver greater environmental benefits to the area. The in-depth nature of the management decisions has meant that local members of the management group have dramatically increased their understanding of what environmental agencies are expecting on the site and this has led to an increased awareness of the uniqueness and complexities of this wet lowland area with its high biological and productive diversity.

Wider lessons

The end result on Walmore is the introduction of a landscape scale process that is delivering far more than just the management of the designated areas within it. The surrounding areas provide a significant buffer, a key recommendation of Lawton Review and taken up by the NEWP.  However, this task requires high skills of facilitation and the ability to link up various strategic frameworks.

There are international examples using approaches such as community-based conservation, co-management or adaptive management, all of which start from the premise that nature conservation and community engagement can be simultaneously achieved. However, this requires a shift in ecological thinking that recognises the social as part of the ecosystem and the need for participatory approaches to identify and integrate traditional human activities into conservation management.

The type of approach implemented by FWAG reflects the principles and process of co-management described by Friket Berkes, at the University of Manitoba as ‘the result of extensive deliberation and negotiation’ – meaning it is very much a process rather than a fixed state.

The experience within Gloucestershire suggests that an integrated approach can inspire and enable communities to help meet national environmental targets and obligations. This appears at odds with the more regulatory and incentive driven approach preferred by some within the conservation movement where environmental management is determined externally and implemented using a business model rather than one more attuned to the existing custom within a landscape.

Next Steps

FWAG’s ILD model is now part of the wider discussion within national, regional and local fora, meaning that it will be tested thoroughly and made available more widely.

The full report, including a tool kit and details of the environmental scoping used in the ILD approach, is available to download from the CCRI website.

For further information, please contact:

You can also keep up-to-date with developments through the @deliverymodel Twitter stream or the FWAG website.

User comments

  1. Desmond Gunner MBE says:

    The Outline of the ILDs Model Approach is clear and easy to understand. A brilliant idea.
    The Six Steps are easy to follow and can be carried out without the creation of a massive new administrative organisation.

    However, the Introduction that one has to plough through to reach these sections is full of confusing jargon and unnecessary contains “framework, multi-objective, connectivity, synergy, coherance, signals, mechanisms and governance”.

    This is enough to choke off any busy government official or minister. I could reduce it all to a third, with increased clarity.

    I do hope it survives study until the meat is reached.

  2. David Lovelace, Herefordshire says:

    It is telling that the example of successful ILD delivery cited includes both common land and SSSI whose damage or destruction would be a criminal offence. There is no such bottom line for most of the countryside where the ILD approach will simply entrench an unequal rural power balance between a small heavily subsidised elite and everyone else. FWAG’s ‘partner’ the NFU is lobbying for the repeal of the few remaining controls such as the Hedgerow Regulations while the planning system is about become a developer’s charter to the delight of land owners. ILD, like ‘Localism’ and ‘big society’ is a cruel charade consistent with current Government ideology of weakening or eliminating environmental legislation while pretending to empower ‘local communities’. No wonder CCRI gets a Government grant to promote it!

    • Jenny Phelps says:

      Dear David
      Thanks for taking the time to read the CCRI report, there was only the funding to research one case study. I have spent 8 years developing the ILD process which values local knowledge in delivery – and it works to support and help farmers. If I can show you any other of my many case studies I would be happy to do so
      Kind Regards
      Jenny Phelps FWAG

  3. Jane Gunner says:

    Having seen the Parish Approach in action, it seems to me to be the only way forward. No amount of top down legislation will produce positive outcomes if the people implementing it on the ground do not believe in it or understand its intentions. FWAG has opened up a real opportunity to benefit not only rural communities but also the urban populations they serve while protecting wildlife and ancient features for future generations.

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