Andrew Sells retires today as Chair of Natural England after five years
Reflecting on his time with the government’s adviser on the natural environment, Andrew paid tribute to colleagues and partners.
It has been a huge privilege to serve as Chair of Natural England. Protecting and enhancing the natural environment has been a considerable challenge, especially in a difficult financial climate, but I am very proud to have given it my best.
I have nothing but admiration for our knowledgeable and inspirational staff, and I have been fortunate to have the constant support of a high-calibre board. It has also been my great pleasure to work so closely with such a diverse range of partners.
Appointed in January 2014, Andrew is the third Chair of Natural England and the longest serving in its 12-year history. Sir Martin Doughty was Chair from 2006 to 2009 and Poul Christensen from 2009 to 2013.
During the last five years Natural England has:
- Moved to a structure of area teams to ensure it takes decisions in collaboration with those closest to the environment
- Adopted a conservation strategy – Conservation 21 – to guide its work in creating resilient landscapes and seas, growing natural capital and putting people at the heart of nature
- Shaped the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly in areas such as Nature Recovery Networks and Net Gain, and is now leading on delivery
- Introduced a more strategic approach to providing licences for developers, aimed at enhancing and linking the habitat of legally-protected species such as great crested newts while making it easier for developers to obtain and comply with licences
- Provided the science and evidence that underpins a “Blue Belt” of marine conservation zones around our coast
- Progressed the 2,700-mile England Coast Path to the point where every stretch is now open or being worked on
- Designated the largest Site of Special Scientific Interest in the last 14 years – the 76 sq km West Pennine Moors – and defended others from development, notably Lodge Hill in Kent and Rampisham Down in Dorset
- Licensed the trial release of beavers – the first to live wild in England for 300 years
- Coordinated vital conservation work across a range of organisations such as the Back from the Brink project to save 20 species from imminent extinction.
Natural England is a great force for good and it’s been an honour to have led the organisation for five years. I believe Natural England is well-equipped to provide the environmental leadership needed to help fulfil the government’s aim of leaving the natural world in a better state.
Farming Minister George Eustice said:
I would like to pay tribute to Andrew’s excellent work and leadership as Natural England’s chair.
He has been a tireless champion of the nation’s environment, helping Natural England, its staff and partners across the country to protect and enhance our shared natural heritage for generations to come.
Natural England’s Deputy Chair, Lord Blencathra, said:
Natural England has achieved some notable successes for the environment in the last five years, due in large part to Andrew’s drive and leadership. He has also reformed the way the organisation works, driven forward vital innovations such as in licensing and pressed hard for the introduction of net gain and conservation covenants.
I would like to thank him for all he has done, both for the organisation and for the natural environment, and wish him the very best for his retirement.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is leading the recruitment of a new Chair and an announcement is expected shortly. Lord Blencathra will chair the Board in the interim.