What does the future hold for Natural England?

As the government’s stated ambition for wildlife conservation expands, its statutory conservation body has contracted in expertise, budget and staff. Where can it go from here, Catherine Early asks

Andrew Sells Natural England
Outgoing chair, Andrew Sells

As environment secretary Michael Gove launched a consultation to improve the fate of the UK’s wildlife on development sites, he reiterated the government’s pledge to “leave our environment in a better state for future generations”.

The words are starting to ring hollow for many in the conservation sector, who have been watching Natural England’s shrinking budget and staff for some years. The organisation now lacks permanent leadership, with the departures of chair Andrew Sells and chief executive James Cross, and has seen large numbers of staff moved to parent department DEFRA to deal with Brexit preparations.

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