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History of JNCC

Our brief history of JNCC highlights how the organisation has evolved over the decades and how our current role, structure and relationships with other bodies have developed.



Effect on JNCC



Nature Conservancy created and given responsibilities for site protection, advice and research and scientific services for Great Britain under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.


Nature Conservancy incorporated within Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


Nature Conservancy Council set up by Nature Conservancy Council Act. Split advisory and executive functions (and research needed to support those functions) from research which remained in NERC at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.


In response to EEC and other international obligations, the Wildlife & Countryside Act added responsibilities for notification and protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and for advising Government on the protection of endangered species. New powers were also added for establishing Marine Nature Reserves.


Under the Environmental Protection Act, the Nature Conservancy Council was replaced by separate country agencies in England, Scotland and Wales (accountable to their respective Secretaries of State) to improve the local delivery of nature conservation.

JNCC was established by the country agencies under the same Act to handle the science-based GB/ UK and international issues. It was staffed through secondments from the country agencies. Drivers were:

  • Ensuring consistency in site designation standards;
  • Maintaining comparable standards and protocols for survey, monitoring and analysis of data;
  • Providing advice at a national and international level;
  • Managing services collectively where it could deliver conservation or value for money benefits.


Ministerial responsibility for policies and practical mechanisms for implementing nature conservation was devolved under the Scotland Act, Government of Wales Act and Northern Ireland Act. The UK Government remained responsible for negotiating the UK framework of environmental legislation within which the devolved administrations would work. A Memorandum of Agreement and various Concordats set out the supporting mechanism. JNCC’s role supported devolution, joining up European and International policy and devolved implementation.    


The Regulatory Reform (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) Order enabled JNCC to simplify administration by setting up a company to employ its own staff and to receive funding directly from UK Government for international and offshore marine work. 


The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act extended JNCC’s powers and functions to a UK basis from a GB basis, placing Northern Ireland on the same footing as the other country agencies. Under the same Act English Nature was abolished and Natural England created.


The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations gave JNCC responsibilities for Natura sites in offshore waters. That involves consultation on proposed sites, setting conservation objectives, acting as a statutory consultee and surveillance and monitoring.


The Marine and Coastal Access Act provided a new system for improved management and protection of the marine and coastal environment, including marine planning and Marine Conservation Zones (Marine Protected Areas in Scotland). JNCC’s responsibilities for nature conservation in offshore waters were extended accordingly. Responsibilities for nature conservation in Scottish offshore waters were executively devolved to Scottish Government and JNCC became Scottish Government’s advisor on these matters.  




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