Conservation covenants

Status: We opened a consultation on this project on 28 March 2013.  The consultation period is now finished.  We have analysed responses and are currently working towards a final report, draft Bill and impact assessment

A conservation covenant is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and responsible body (charity, public body or local/central Government) to do or not do something on their land for a conservation purpose.  This might be, for example, an agreement to maintain a woodland and allow public access to it, or to refrain from using certain pesticides on native vegetation.  These agreements are long lasting and continue after the landowner has parted with the land, ensuring that its conservation value is protected for the public benefit.

Conservation covenants are used in many other jurisdictions, but do not exist in the law of England and Wales. Instead, landowners and responsible bodies are relying on complex and expensive legal workarounds, or the limited number of existing statutory covenants that enable certain covenants to be enforced by specified bodies (for example, the National Trust).

The project

We began work on this project at the beginning of 2012 and have investigated whether there is a case for introducing conservation covenants into the law of England and Wales; and if so, what elements might be needed in a new statutory scheme for conservation covenants.

Updates

December 2013
August 2013

The consultation

We published a consultation paper on 28 March 2013.  In the paper, we considered the following key issues:

  • Who should be able to create a conservation covenant?
  • What should a conservation covenants be for?
  • Should there be public oversight of a new statutory scheme?
  • How should conservation covenants be created and recorded?
  • How should a conservation covenant be managed?
  • What should happen if there is a breach of a conservation covenant?
  • When and how should a conservation covenant be modified or come to an end?
  • Could any existing statutory covenants be replaced by a system of conservation covenants?
  • What will be the impact of introducing a system of conservation covenants?

The paper considered these issues in detail, alongside others, and presented a number of provisional proposals on which we invite consultees’ views.

Next steps

After the consultation period we will review how to take the project forward in the light of consultees’ views.  We anticipate publishing a final report with draft Bill and impact assessment in summer 2014.