The majority of policy regarding Local Sites is taken from planning policy documents, or specific Defra guidance documents.
In 2005, Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9): Biodiversity and Geological Conservation outlined that “Sites of regional and local biodiversity and geological interest, which include Regionally Important Geological Sites, Local Nature Reserves and Local Sites, have a fundamental role to play in meeting overall national biodiversity targets; contributing to the quality of life and the well-being of the community; and in supporting research and education.”
The Defra guidance on Local Sites followed in 2006, and the document describes the legislative origins and policy context for Local Sites in detail.
In 2010 the Lawton Review Making Space for Nature advocated the general approach of more, bigger, better and joined. The review emphasised that better protection, connection and buffering of high quality sites (such as Local Sites) is key to making space for nature and ensuring that our wildlife is more resilient to factors such as climate change.
In the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper The Natural Choice: Securing the value of nature and in Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services, the Government responds to the findings of the Lawton Review and made a number of commitments towards achieving a more coherent and resilient ecological network. These commitments are strengthened in the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023: First Revision of the 25 Year Environment Plan through the establishing of a Nature Recovery Network.
In 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) replaced the Planning Policy Statements (including PPS9); and was itself replaced by a reviewed NPPF in 2018 and consequent revisions in 2021. The NPPF (2021) requires local planning policy to identify, map and safeguard components of local wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks, including Local Sites.
Local authorities are required to report on the management status of Local Sites annually. For more information on this see Local Sites reporting.