Who we are
The West of England Nature Partnership (WENP) is a cross-sector partnership working to restore the natural environment in the West of England through embedding the value of nature in decision making across spatial planning, public health and economic development.
Established in 2012, WENP is the designated Local Nature Partnership (LNP) for the West of England (Bristol City, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset). LNPs are a key commitment from the 2011 Government White Paper, The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature, which recognised the need for a more joined-up approach to reverse the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems – which we all rely on – and to secure nature’s return to health. LNPs are prescribed bodies in the Localism Act 2011 and should be consulted on strategic planning under the Duty to Cooperate.
WENP is hosted by Avon Wildlife Trust and funded by North Somerset Council, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Wessex Water and Bristol Water. WENP is governed by a Board and supported by key stakeholders across the West of England. Read more about WENP’s governance below.GOVERNANCE
What we do
Our current priority is to facilitate investment in and delivery of projects that deliver the West of England Nature Recovery Network, with a focus on large and impactful projects. Drawing on the knowledge and experience across our partners and wider stakeholders, WENP convenes working groups to collaboratively work on specific opportunities and challenges – from creating evidence, setting priorities, driving investment and developing mechanisms, to supporting delivery.
More information on how we are working to deliver our Vision can be found in our Strategy, below.
Read on to find out more about our work.
Nature is in decline globally, nationally and within the West of England, threatening our health, prosperity and security. The need to act is urgent, as recognised by declarations of ecological emergencies in the West of England. To reverse the decline and deliver nature’s recovery, we need to work to Lawton’s Principles and create bigger, better, more and joined-up habitats.
WENP has led the development of a vision for a Nature Recovery Network (NRN) in the West of England as a joined up network of marine and terrestrial habitats where nature and people can thrive. We are now driving delivery of this vision by engaging with partners across the West of England; by identifying strategic projects that contribute to the Network through the NRN Prospectus; and by embedding the Nature Recovery Network into regional plans, strategies and programmes, including the West of England Joint Green Infrastructure Strategy.
Together with the Forest of Avon Trust, we have produced the Forest of Avon Plan: A Tree and Woodland Strategy for the West of England. The Plan provides sets out a long-term, generational vision for trees and woodlands across the West of England. Harnessing regional demand for trees and woodlands, the Plan will ensure that the right tree is delivered in the right place, maximising the benefits that trees and woodland can provide for nature and people.
As almost 70% of land in England is in agricultural production, the contribution of agriculture will be vital in delivering nature’s recovery. Therefore, WENP and the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership have together set up a West of England Agriculture Working Group to discuss how agriculture can contribute to our shared regional priorities.
WENP aims to constructively influence spatial planning to ensure that a truly sustainable pattern of development becomes fully integrated into policy, decision making and delivery. WENP formed part of a working group tasked with developing a Joint Green Infrastructure Strategy for the West of England, which aims to ensure a consistent approach to green infrastructure across the region and to secure investment in GI planning and provision, similar to that of other infrastructure. The JGIS Action Plan will inform work related to GI going forward, including embedding Biodiversity Net Gain in local planning policy and producing a Natural Capital Account for the West of England.
We provide evidence relating to the natural environment to inform regional planning decisions. Additionally, we are in a position to engage with, effectively respond to and challenge (if appropriate) major planning applications and decisions.
Like many areas in the UK, the West of England has a requirement to provide additional houses and continue to invest in new and existing economic areas. We continue to work closely with local and regional planning authorities to ensure that regional growth has the natural environment as its heart and contributes towards nature’s recovery.
The importance of the natural environment for our health and wellbeing is well understood: good quality green space can help tackle inequalities, support community cohesion, improve physical activity and provide significant mental wellbeing benefits.
WENP’s Vision for Nature and Health is for nature-based health services to be freely available to all who need them in the West of England and for nature to be a part of everyone’s daily lives, improving people’s mental and physical health and reducing demand on services. Our Strategy for Nature and Health in the West of England sets out how we will achieve this vision, which will be overseen by the WENP Nature and Health Strategy Group. Find out more about the Strategy using the link below.
We are currently working closely with Healthier with Nature: a Green Social Prescribing Project in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. This project is one of seven test and learn sites across England that form part of a government programme aiming to embed green social prescribing, which links people to nature-based interventions and activities, into communities.
We also work with the Nature and Health Practitioners Network, which originated in the West of England and brings together practitioners in the field of nature and health, as well as other interested parties, to connect, collaborate, discuss, learn and share.View the Healthy Ageing Directory
Our Impact Priority is to facilitate investment in and delivery of projects that deliver the West of England Nature Recovery Network, with a focus on large and impactful projects. We are working with and supporting partners across the region in making the case for investment in the natural environment and in developing mechanisms that match investment with suppliers of land, such as the Bristol Avon Catchment Market. Working with partners, we are using the Nature Recovery Network Prospectus to develop ‘shovel-ready’ nature-based projects into which investment can be directed.
Following a successful Defra funding bid, WENP previously developed the concept of a Natural Capital Trust to drive more and better investment in our natural environment. As well as being referenced in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the concept has been built on to develop mechanisms for investing in the natural environment across the country.Nature Recovery Network Prospectus
We can only do this work through the great and ongoing support of our many partners – many of whom are driving the real and tangible changes on the ground.
The challenges we face in achieving nature’s recovery are enormous, and it is only through partnership working that we will be able to achieve our vision of a thriving and well-connected natural environment in the West of England that underpins a healthy and resilient society and economy. Fortunately, there are a plethora of organisations and individuals working tirelessly towards a more sustainable future. Through working together, we can safeguard the space that nature needs to thrive – in turn radically improving our own health and wellbeing.
WENP holds an Annual Forum to update – and gain critical input from – our wider stakeholders on our current work and thinking. This is also a great opportunity for networking and to celebrate work among the wider Partnership.
We aim to be inclusive in the organisations we include in our working groups and consider as our partners. If you would like to get in touch to learn more about the Partnership and opportunities to work together, we would love to hear from you. You can also stay in touch by joining our mailing list.
Mapping and Evidence
To drive a step-change in how we think about the natural environment, we need a strong underlying evidence base. The Bristol Regional Environmental Record Centre plays a critical role as the central biodiversity and geodiversity data provider in the West of England. We are grateful for the efforts of our wildlife recorder community in the ongoing development of this evidence, and support citizen science projects, such as the City Nature Challenge organised through the Natural History Consortium, to further support our knowledge of our natural environment.
WENP also develops environmental evidence to support spatial planning. In 2016 we launched our State of Environment ecosystem service maps, and in 2019 we built on this work by mapping a West of England Nature Recovery Network. Click on the links below to find out more.