Conservation covenants

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Making it easier for people to enter agreements which conserve the natural environment.

Download the report

Download the summary

The problem

A conservation covenant is an agreement between a landowner and a body like a charity or public body to do or not do something on their land for a conservation purpose.

This might be, for example, an agreement to maintain woodland and allow public access to it, or to refrain from using certain pesticides on native vegetation.

These agreements are long lasting and can 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. We 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.

The Consultation Paper was published in March 2013, with consultation formally closing in June 2013.

We received a large number of responses, most of which were extremely detailed and gave the view of those representing large numbers of individuals and organisations.

The Consultation Paper, together with other material related to the project, can also be found on this page.

Our recommendations

The final Report was published on 24 June 2014. We recommend introducing a new statutory scheme of conservation covenants in England and Wales.

In this scheme, a conservation covenant would:

  • be formed by the agreement of two parties: a landowner (a person with a freehold estate or leasehold estate of more than seven years), and a responsible body drawn from a limited class of organisations;
  • be able to contain both restrictive and positive obligations;
  • be capable of binding the landowner’s successors in title (that is, all subsequent owners) after he or she has disposed of the land; and
  • be made for the public good.

Our Report includes a draft Conservation Covenants Bill.

Government response

As a final response, on 28 January 2016, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs thanked the Law Commission for its “excellent work, thorough analysis and thoughtful recommendations”.

The letter committed to explore the part that conservation covenants could play in the Department’s 25-Year Environment Plan.

Published in January 2018, the A Green Future: Our 25 year Plan to Improve the Environment report pledged: “Working with landowners, conservation groups and other stakeholders we will review and take forward the Law Commission’s proposals for a statutory scheme of conservation covenants in England.”

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Property, family and trust law


Professor Elizabeth Cooke