Guidance for Parish & Town Councils

Find out how you can protect and enhance green spaces for nature and people

Three things Parish Councils can do

This guide offers practical steps for individuals and groups to enhance their local area for nature.

Community Town and Parish Guide to Nature Recovery

Download the Guide

What's inside?

This guide outlines a four-step approach to conservation, which includes:

1) Discovering what wildlife is already in your area
2) Protecting valuable habitats
3) Creating new wildlife habitats
4) Managing both these new and existing areas to maintain and enhance biodiversity.

It also includes advice on setting up local conservation groups, involving the community, contributing to Parish or Neighborhood Plans, and accessing further sources of help, information, and funding.

We're here to help

If you need any assistance or further help, please email our Community Ecology Team or you can phone the office on 01865 407034. Please note our staff are often out of the office on site visits so we may take a few working days to return your call.

Our Work - Community Ecology

Would you like to connect with like minded local groups and volunteers? Join our Wild Oxfordshire Community Groups Facebook page to get more advice from other groups like you in Oxfordshire! Please be sure to answer the admin questions so that we can add you.

We’re all trying to do the best thing for nature and our communities, and it makes a huge difference to groups knowing that they are supported by their local authorities. You'll likely also find that the local group(s) can help with your own green initiatives. Knowing that we’re all in it together makes any community and biodiversity ambitions less daunting for everyone involved.


Show that you’re interested in your local environment group's work and achievements by:

- Making sure you know what's going on. You should catch up with them or have someone from the Council show up to the occasional meeting to offer audible encouragement and support - be encouraging and enthusiastic! This way, the group can physically see that you’re excited by their work and achievements. As well as bolstering the group, this also offers the opportunity to partner up on projects and share manpower and resources.

- You can showcase their projects on your website and enthuse about their work in Council meetings and to the public at events and in any other publications you produce.

- Offer help by connecting people, giving space or funding projects.

Connect People

Here is an opportunity to use your contacts. Connect the local environment group(s) to other organisations or companies you may work with that could help their projects or general day to day running. This could be any local tradesmen, individuals, charities, businesses, or groups you know of that are working on similar initiatives. Maybe there’s an allotment group they could partner with, or you may know of someone who can e.g. help create or put up bird boxes, or a contact that can give them access to unmanaged land.

Giving Space

Provide an indoor meeting space
Do they need somewhere to store tools and if so, is there somewhere you could offer or direct them to?

Provide a storage space
Do they need somewhere to store tools and if so, if there somewhere you could offer or direct them to?

Green spaces
Partner up on the management of your green spaces. Local Environment Groups can be a gold mine of knowledge and ideas. They will likely have some really good suggestions on how to enhance your land for wildlife and people, or even be able to offer volunteers to help carry out management. If you're unsure about any management or project ideas, or are unsure how to create your vision, we can help. Just contact our community ecology programme by emailing Rachel and we can offer habitat management advice.

Fund Projects

a.      See what funding pots are available
b.      Check out the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment (TOE) to see if they can fund your project
c.      Can you offer funding through your District or Parish Council?

Find Local Environment Groups Here

Find out what you already have

Use Google Maps satellite view or Magic Maps to see what you have in terms of green spaces and landscape types.
Look for trees, parks, fields, hedgerows and any water e.g. canal, river, stream or ponds. What open green spaces are there? These could be wildlife sites, green community areas, churchyards, playing fields, green school grounds, allotments etc. Do they have an statutory or non-statutory designations, like SSSI or Local Green Space?

Ask for information
Contact TVERC: they can provide you with a map showing all the sites, species, and habitats in your area.
The Oxfordshire Wildlife Landscape Study (OWLS) website provides information on the habitats and landscape character of each Parish. This information is also worth getting.

Feel free to ask us for help if you get stuck!

Create, manage & enhance your green spaces for nature

Contact our Community Ecology Team here. We can meet with you in your Parish to assess options for your spaces' management and write you a tailored habitat management plan. There are usually multiple options for bringing in biodiversity. With that in mind, we make sure that the chosen method is right for your group and your Parish, dependent on ambitions and resources.

We can also point you towards funding pots for certain projects and link you to places that have done / are doing similar things in their area.


You will have found out what is already protected from step 1. You can help sites gain Local Wildlife Site status by making sure the species seen on the site are recorded and that these records go to TVERC. There are several apps to do this, or you can use their website or even send paper records to them. This ensures that there is data to prove the site is valuable to wildlife. Many Parishes have their own volunteer, wildlife recorders within their Environment Groups.

More ideas and inspiration

Councils can improve their natural environment by:

- managing hedgerows and road verges for wildlife
- joining up or extending footpaths and bridleways
- making a wildlife area
- planting a community orchard
- planting woodland for community wood fuel.

CEH’s BiodiversityToolkit includes more than 20 wildlife management options suitable for housing developments. It also provides a guide on how best to improve greenspaces for wildlife while involving residents in key decision making.

If planning to influence development, amongst many other ideas, you can consider:
- planting for pollinators
- installing sustainable drainage systems
- starting renewable energy schemes
- requiring street trees in their new development for climate cooling and reduction of pollution
- Installing hedgehog highways
- Installing swift bricks

If you need any further assistance with your green spaces, or biodiversity enhancement projects, please do get in touch and our Community Ecology team will do their best to help you.

Neighbourhood Plans have legal force that can protect your Parish from unwanted development, and play a vital part in protecting your green spaces and wildlife friendly areas .

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Neighbourhood planning is a right for communities introduced through the Localism Act 2011, and a way for communities to have a say in the future of the places where they live and work. A Neighbourhood Plan is a document that sets out planning policies for your area and can protect local green spaces, encourage better designed places, and bring forward housing that genuinely meets local needs.Neighbourhood Plans are a preventative form of protection, not reactive.

Unfortunately, if development has already been agreed at the cost of the green spaces and wildlife areas, a new neighbourhood plan cannot revoke that decision. It is important to protect these areas using a Neighbourhood Plan to prevent harmful decisions happening in the first place.

How do Green Spaces and Nature's Recovery link into Neighbourhood Planning?

Neighbourhood Planning has the potential to make a positive difference for wildlife by protecting and enhancing local green space for people and wildlife and by encouraging wildlife friendly enhancements in new developments. Local parks and green space are often the most natural and accessible places closest to where people live and are at the heart of an area’s green infrastructure. Communities can highlight spaces that are important to them as Assets of Community Value, and by designating relevant areas as Local Green Space in their Neighbourhood Plans. Green Infrastructure Strategies, which assess the opportunities and barriers for current and proposed green and blue spaces, can also form part of a Neighbourhood Plan.

You can read more on our blog about "Keeping Special Places Special".

If you’re involved in developing a Neighbourhood Plan, download our Community Town and Parish Guide to Nature Recovery for Oxfordshire for guidance on identifying and protecting green spaces. Useful guidance can also be sought from the Kingsbrook development in Aylesbury, where the RSPB worked with Barratt Developments and Aylesbury Vale District Council to set a new benchmark for wildlife friendly new housing developments.

Useful links and resources

Creating a Neighbourhood Plan requires a significant amount of data, research and consultation to function as a useful plan. There are several useful local organisations and resources that are available;
- Community First Oxfordshire can help to create a Neighbourhood Plan through their consultancy services
- The Oxfordshire Neighbourhood Plans Alliance shares best practice amongst those developing Plans in Oxfordshire, and ensure that they are properly represented at all levels of planning within Oxfordshire
- The Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils is part of a national network that represents Town & Parish Councils, and Parish Meetings, providing advice and information and training for councillors and clerks.
- The Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) provides some services to aid communities with Neighbourhood planning, including focused biodiversity data searches, along with assistance in identifying current and potential green corridors

Applying for a Neighbourhood Plan

- Cherwell District Council:
- West Oxfordshire District Council:
- South Oxfordshire District Council:
- Vale of White Horse District Council:
- Oxford City Council:

Example neighbourhood plans:

Thame Green Living (complete), Go to their website or download the document as a Pdf
Benson Neighbourhood plan

Read inspiring stories from our local communities in our Newsletter. See how people are bringing the wildlife back to their neighbourhoods.

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