IPENS - Improvement Programme for England's Natura 2000 Sites

LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Samantha SOMERS
Tel: +44 3000601189
Email: sam.somers@naturalengland.org.uk

Project description:


Natural England has defined 40 reasons why 33 000 ha of Natura 2000 network sites are not in a “favourable” or “recovering” condition. The top 20 reasons by area include factors relating to pollution, water levels, over- and under-grazing, and the impact of invasive species. The scale and complexity of the task is significant – both the scale of ensuring all Natura 2000 features are under recovery management and the much greater task of ensuring they remain in recovery. Many of the remaining reasons for adverse conditions and newly emerging risks are complex and require a strategic approach across the affected sites to ensure they are addressed in a lasting way. A coherent programme across all English Natura 2000 network sites presents the best opportunity to deliver these outcomes.


The objective of the IPENS project was to develop a programmed approach for approach of the Priority Action Frameworks (PAFs), concrete and operational measures for the Natura 2000 network sites in England, by working with key stakeholders at national and regional levels in the public, private and voluntary sectors, to help them adopt and implement this strategic approach. The proposed programme structure contained a detailed overview of the Natura 2000 network in England, including a review of its contribution to biodiversity in the EU; an analysis of the risks and threats to each site; and an assessment of the mechanisms available to counter these threats. It also included financing plans for the sites and surrounding green infrastructure, involving an assessment of European and domestic financial instruments.


The IPENS project developed a programme for the management of terrestrial and marine Natura 2000 network sites in England. In doing so, it complemented the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for England. The project methodology, which is presented as good practice, started with reviews of the mechanisms available to address pressures and threats and funding options. The main outputs were Site Improvement Plans (SIPs) for all Natura 2000 sites in England. Generic issues were identified through technical workshops and covered in 11 Theme Plans, where a number of new and innovative mechanisms were proposed. Where evidence gaps were identified, the project commissioned work to provide the knowledge through 54 evidence projects. The project therefore contributed to the updating of Natura 2000 information in the Natural England CMSi Protected Sites Database. The evidence-informed approach to establishing conservation objectives has a strong scientific base. The end result of the project is a much greater awareness of Natura 2000 requirements within Natural England, the inclusion of Natura 2000 information on the protected sites database, and the use of the SIPs to identify and prioritise work. Although there are funding challenges to address the estimated €1.6 billion cost for delivering the programme, good progress has been made through successful applications to LIFE projects and securing new funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for strategic projects. Continuity and drive is provided through the Implementation Plan (After LIFE Plan), guided by a Steering Group and supported by ongoing communication and engagement work.

By addressing the pressures and threats affecting Natura 2000 network sites in England, the project identified short-term and long-term actions to improve their conservation status. The project published a ‘Directory of Practical Mechanisms’, which included 115 specific mechanisms relevant to identified pressures and/or threats. This assisted in the production of 267 individual SIPs covering all 338 Natura 2000 sites in England (including 174 that help support River Basin Management Plans). In the long-term, the actions, when applied across multiple sites, should have a measurable impact on the condition of sites and species as reported through Article 17 of the Habitats Directive and Article 12 of the Birds Directive. The improvement programme supports the English PAF, which is designed to operate as a tool for accessing EU and national funds to support the management of the Natura 2000 network. Project outputs are being used to update the PAF.

The IPENS project, along with the other 'PAF' LIFE projects funded in 2010-2013, is a demonstration of the implementation of the UK PAF. The project methodology has been shared with other projects, and at presentations and discussions at 'PAF workshops' in Brussels. The UK PAF projects have used similar approaches with a strong focus on evidence to inform actions. Several innovative ideas have arisen from the development of the SIPs and Theme Plans, including proposals for Site Nitrogen Action Plans (SNAPs), strategic principles for invasive species, strategic framework for addressing climate change, strategic framework for habitat fragmentation and long-term hydrological restoration plans for terrestrial wetlands.

The project disseminated its findings by means of a website, stakeholder newsletters, noticeboards, technical and layman’s reports, and a final project workshop in March 2015. In the long-term, the strategic approach towards land management provided by the IPENS project, working alongside other initiatives (e.g. the RSPB Futurescapes Programme), should be able to draw down more funding for nature conservation across England. The project has highlighted some economic benefits of the Natura 2000 network, including a desire to work with natural processes, for example, to address flood protection. The implementation of the project findings should lead to more 'win-win' solutions for people and Natura 2000, such as getting the balance right between access and the protection of sensitive features.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Land-use & Planning - Sensitive and protected areas management


protected area‚  nature conservation‚  risk assessment‚  financial instrument

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Natural England
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description Natural England is an independent statutory non-departmental public body dealing with the natural environment in England. It was formally established in accordance with national legislation (NERC Act 2006) on 1 October 2006 by combining English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service
Partners The Environment Agency of England


Project reference LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384
Duration 01-JUL-2012 to 30-JUN -2015
Total budget 3,575,345.00 €
EU contribution 1,787,672.00 €
Project location North(United Kingdom) Yorkshire and Humberside(United Kingdom) East Midlands(United Kingdom) East Anglia(United Kingdom) South East (UK)(United Kingdom) South West (UK)(United Kingdom) West Midlands(United Kingdom) North West (UK)(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report "Pollution Risk Assessment and source Apportionmen ...
Publication: Technical report "SCIMAP Sediment Risk Mapping for Designated Site ...
Publication: Technical report "Pollution Risk Assessment and Source Apportionmen ...
Publication: Technical report "Improvement Programme for England’s Natura 2000 S ...
Publication: Technical report "Application of a cross sector pollutant source ap ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version