Relaunching the Lancashire Local Nature Partnership

A valley in the Forest of Bowland © Forest of Bowland AONB Sustainable Tourism


For Lancaster University to unite local stakeholders and facilitate the relaunch of the Lancashire Local Nature Partnership to address local and regional ecological issues.


Project Lead, Barry Simons explains: “As an environmentalist who has worked in the North West for the best part of 25 years, including most recently as Environment and Land Use Adviser for the National Farmers’ Union before moving to Lancaster University, I had well established networks and a clear understanding of the environmental challenges facing the county. My position as a Partnerships Manager in the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) offered me the opportunity to bring stakeholders together with the University, taking the lead to recreate the Local Nature Partnership (LNP) as a forum for sharing knowledge, utilising and deploying University resources to improve the environment of Lancashire, and for all involved to benefit from the professional and practitioner expertise present in LNP members.

“Local Nature Partnerships are Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recognised strategic partnerships which bring together local organisations, agencies, businesses representatives and local councils in partnership to combat species and habitat loss and to enable the urgent recovery of their local natural environment. There are 47 LNPs across England. Each LNP decides on what the priorities are for their locality and how to address their environmental challenges, and each has a different level of activity.

"When I joined the University, I felt that my skills and expertise, and that of the wider University’s, could be used to bring local stakeholders back together in a new way to reconvene, rejuvenate and re-launch our local LNP, the Lancashire LNP.

“It just made sense to me to see if I could create some alignment, some common interest around the environment between us moving forward, with the environmental needs of the region feeding our research ideas for the greater good, we could all work together to facilitate, plan and develop environmental change across the locality. This would also improve and deepen both stakeholders in the LNP’s relationship with each other, and our relationship with them, but also facilitate closer connectivity with DEFRA and its agencies, creating a strong network and facilitating knowledge exchange across all parties.

“I went about talking to my network, with partners, including getting the green light to do this from DEFRA and internal approval from the University. I started reconnecting this important forum to fill a gap in joined up advocacy and to better engage with what I saw as being key partners for LEC.

“These included the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), The Countryside Charity (CPRE), Rivers Trusts, all Lancashire’s Councils, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Marine Management Organisation, Forestry Commission, National Farmers’ Union, United Utilities, Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnership, other Lancashire HE institutions, both Lancashire Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Woodland Trust, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).”

Results and Outcomes

Tab Content: For Partners and Engagement

1. Connecting a unique group

The idea to create a new forum to reconnect and focus on the environment was well received by key partners, although there was some surprise that the University was doing this, there was also a feeling that this made sense. The first outcome was to get people back together, back in the room for the first time in eight years.

2. Developing a single contact point

Immediately LNP lead officers were reconnected. The most powerful thing I heard said was at the first meeting of partners, when two partners told the group that this was the first time they’d seen each other for around five years.

3.Sharing perspectives, facilitating knowledge exchange, and developing a collective voice

It was important to make clear from the start that discussions were open and decisions would be made as a group, and the University’s aim was only to connect and unite partners, to facilitate strategic alignment, and to support the group to develop a collective voice and collective way forward.

The partnership is an excellent vehicle for two-way knowledge exchange, to enable the partner organisations to tap into university expertise and resources, ultimately to apply this to improve the local environment as a result, to speed up its recovery, but also crucially for the University to learn from the wealth of experience and practitioner knowledge around the natural environment from the diversity of LNP partners.

Adam Briggs from the National Farmers Union said, “Being involved in the LNP allows me to present the views from the current land managers and also help me understand the aims and objectives of the environmental NGO’s. The LNP is a good forum to have these discussions and share perspectives.”

Ultimately the LNP can be used for urgently addressing critical environmental challenges, to inform policy, to help in securing funding and to use its status strategically with one collective voice in a targeted way.

4. Directing cutting-edge research

Tim Mitcham, Head of Conservation at the Lancashire Wildlife Trust said “Great link into academia that will grow with time. We have already got two students working on key questions we need answering in our work.”

5. Workgroups on key priority areas

Another early outcome is that working groups are now meeting to focus on key priority areas. The first of these is on data and mapping. Jack Spees, LNP Chair, stated “Partners are contributing data and evidence to an extent not previously achieved before…more effectively.”

6. Connecting and aligning

One learning point will be how to get the majority of the local councils more engaged with the LNP. The partners are also keen to connect and align the LNP with other structures with influence and status.

Tab Content: For Academics

1. Connect to a unique and very broad group of local stakeholders and identify challenges for impactful research

This forum with its broad nature, environmental membership, wider resonance and status is available for academics across the University to engage with. The University has a seat round the LNP table.

As a DEFRA recognised forum it has taken some time to support colleagues to understand the benefits and opportunity of engagement with the LNP, but as Prof. Carly Stevens explains, she believes it is important: “to emphasise the range of organisations this brings together and the potential this has for linking academics with the organisations, the potential it brings for increasing the impact of our research.”

2. Opportunities to lead the debate locally and nationally surrounding strategic environmental planning

Academics can tap into an influential group which is working together to address critical environmental challenges, to inform policy, to help in securing funding and to use its status strategically and in a targeted way.

Dr Alex Bush who is involved in the data/mapping working group says: “…I see the greatest opportunities to assist, and potentially even lead some of the debate locally and nationally surrounding strategic environmental planning. Furthermore, because this is expected to take a very broad perspective of environmental issues, it could well be a topic that is suited to the wide array of expertise in the Environment Centre.”

3. Potential for multi-disciplinary research broader than just environmental issues

This opportunity extends beyond the Environment Centre.

Dr Dermot O’Reilly from Lancaster University Management School says of the partners: “It has also become apparent that it is important to speak directly to their varied needs and interests to engage with them constructively. An encouraging aspect of this endeavour is the multiple modes of interacting with the LNP via student projects, academic involvement, organisational support, and academic input, all of which help generate a meaningful relationship which is necessary for ongoing knowledge co-construction.” There is the potential for the LNP to access all levels of university resource and expertise starting with student projects.

4. Facilitate knowledge exchange for other universities and between universities

The relaunched LNP now provides a forum for engagement in multiple ways, not just for Lancaster University, but the other Lancashire universities, and can also foster greater partnerships between our regional universities.

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