Encourage your local authority to help nature

Have you ever wondered about the role your local authority can play in helping to protect and enhance nature in your community?

A volunteer and RSPB Ambassador watching waders at sunrise.
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Perhaps you’ve walked past an area of unused land that could be improved for wildlife, or feel that there must be other ways that your local authority could help nature? Read on for lots of tips and advice on how you can encourage your local authority to make changes that will not only benefit wildlife, but people too.

What is a local authority?

If you’re unsure what a local authority is and what it’s responsible for, don’t worry – we’ve produced a guide to explain everything you need to know. It also contains lots of tips on how to contact your local authority, which will come in handy for the actions below. 

Read the guide.

7 ways to work with your local authority

Remember, the more voices that speak up for nature, the more likely you are to succeed in persuading your local authority to take action for nature. So share these ideas with your neighbours and encourage as many people as you can to get involved. If you haven’t already, why not set up a community group and co-ordinate your efforts?

1. Ask your local authority to declare a nature emergency

You’ll no doubt have heard that we’re in a climate emergency. But did you know that we’re also facing a nature emergency too? The fact is, the two are interlinked, with each one exacerbating the other. Nature’s recovery is the key to tackling the climate crisis, so by helping nature in your neighbourhood you’ll also be helping in the fight against climate change.

Your local authority has the power to help nature thrive in your community, so if they haven’t already done so, ask them to declare a nature emergency, accompanied by measurable targets for recovering nature and a clear action plan for how they will achieve those targets.  

For guidance on how to do this, visit the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s website. They’ve helpfully included a pre-written email template which you can send to your councillors, (wherever you are in the UK), demanding that they submit a motion to declare a nature emergency. You can copy and personalise the template, then send it directly to your local councillors using Write to Them. Alternatively, if you prefer, you could write a message of your own, from scratch. 

2. Check your local authority’s climate/net zero plan

Find out if your local authority has a climate/net zero plan and if they do, ask them to ensure that their plans to reach net zero focus on using nature-based solutions to:

  • Combat urban heat 
  • Provide natural flood management 
  • Provide wildlife corridors 
  • Increase green space to provide wildlife habitats, as well as physical and mental health benefits for local communities 
An adult and child crouched in a woodland looking at nature.

3. Lobby local election candidates

Check when your next local authority councillor elections will take place and contact candidates asking them what they intend to do to protect and restore nature and local green spaces. Let them know that you’ll be voting with nature in mind – the more people that do, the more likely they are to sit up and take notice!  

4. Encourage better management of local authority-owned land

Call on your local authority to ensure that they manage the land they own in ways that benefit nature. For example:

  • Reducing the frequency of grass and verge cutting will allow flowers to bloom, providing vital food for insects, such as bees and butterflies. Plantlife have produced lots of helpful guidance on how to make roadside verges better for nature.
  • Ask your local authority to sign up to Pesticide Action Network (PAN)’s Pesticide Free Towns campaign and commit to ending the use of hazardous chemicals in your neighbourhood. You can quickly send your local councillors a message using PAN’s email template. PAN’s website has lots of useful information on becoming a campaigner, as well as resources for local authorities who want to switch to non-chemical alternatives. 
A meadow filled with a mixture of colourful wildflowers, with blue, pink and white Cornflowers in the foreground.

5. Campaign for nature-friendly development

Call on your local authority to ensure that development is genuinely sustainable and creates healthy and environmentally resilient places for people and nature. The planning department (also known as the local planning authority or LPA) in your local authority deals with development. Here is how your community can take action:

  • Get involved in the local plan/local development plan-making process (these plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of an area and are prepared by your LPA). Find out what nature-friendly policies your area’s local plan contains and push for them to go further when the plan gets reviewed. 
  • For example, in England there is a national policy for developments to provide a 10% biodiversity net gain (from November 2023). If you live in England, ask your LPA to go further than the national policy minimum and do more for nature in your local area, as some authorities have already done (for example Litchfield District Council)
  • Push for policies to be included in your local plan/local development plan that ensure nature-friendly design features (such as Hedgehog highways and bird/bat boxes) are provided in all new developments.
  • Ask your LPA how they will ensure that their local plan/local development plan protects current areas of natural habitat and potential areas for restoration. 
  • If there is a development proposal near you that you feel will threaten nature, contact your LPA to voice your concerns, and if possible, provide evidence of what species you have recorded seeing on the site. Also make suggestions for how the development could be made more nature friendly.  
  • With support from the RSPB, the NHBC Foundation has produced an informative guide, called Biodiversity in new housing developments: creating wildlife-friendly communities, which explains the many ways in which housing developments can protect and enhance nature.  

6. Keep wildlife records

Maintaining records of the wildlife living in your neighbourhood can be used as powerful evidence against development applications that might threaten your local green spaces.  
Find out if there are any local wildlife groups in your area that could help coordinate wildlife surveys. For example, some parish or community councils may have a wildlife group that is linked to the declaration of a climate or nature emergency. 

A Red Squirrel hanging onto a tree with one paw, reaching out with the other.

7. Take on the management of local authority-owned land

Are there areas of unused or neglected local authority-owned land in your neighbourhood that have the potential to be improved for wildlife and people? If so, it could be possible for your community to take on the management of the land to increase its value for nature. This could be an informal agreement between your community group and the local authority, or a more permanent arrangement, such as a community asset transfer. This would involve your local community coming together to buy or lease land to manage it for nature.  
To help you navigate the options, we’ve put together detailed advice.

Inspiring real-life stories

Discover how a community in London’s Tower Hamlets campaigned to change neglected, council-owned land into a haven for wildlife.

Seedling tray

Other useful resources

  • For more examples of local communities safeguarding their open green spaces in England and Wales, visit the Open Spaces Society
  • Take a look at Fields in Trust’s Green Space Index to find your nearest green space and discover provision of green spaces in your area compares to others across the UK.