Defra publishes CEP’s final report on the monitoring and evaluation of the Nature Improvement Areas initiative
The three year NIA Monitoring and Evaluation Phase 2 project was commissioned by Defra, in collaboration with Natural England, in February 2013. The project gathered evidence and assessed the progress and achievements of the NIAs over the government grant funded period, as well as learning from the NIA initiative to inform future integrated natural environment initiatives.
In addition to undertaking the annual evaluations and an overall final evaluation of the outcomes of the individual NIAs and the programme as a whole, other innovative aspects of the project included:
- Experimental research to test and increase understanding of approaches to assess the difference the NIAs made over and above what would have happened anyway (the counterfactual). The report on this work is included as Annex 1 to the final report.
- Developing the monitoring and evaluation framework and indicators, including relating to habitat connectivity, ecosystem services and social and economic and well-being benefits.
- Completed additional research into the monitoring and evaluation of social, economic and well-being benefits in the NIAs, working with the NIA partnerships to develop related case studies. This work is reported in Annex 3 (case studies) and Annex 4 (lessons learned from the assessment of social and economic outcomes and impacts).
- Developing and managing an online reporting tool for the NIAs to record their monitoring data.
- Facilitating knowledge exchange with and between the NIAs.
- A scoping study, using lessons learned from the NIAs and the counterfactual work, to design the monitoring and evaluation of the Countryside Stewardship facilitation fund (CSFF).
For further information please contact Owen White (Principal Consultant), Project Manager for the NIA evaluation project.
 The establishment of the NIAs was announced in the Natural Environment White Paper and contributed to England’s strategy for wildlife and ecosystem services – Biodiversity 2020. The NIAs were designed to enable local partnerships to develop and implement a shared vision for their natural environment and to demonstrate how a ‘step change’ in nature conservation might be delivered at a landscape-scale, enhancing ecosystem services including social and economic objectives. Following a national competition 12 selected NIAs were awarded a share of £7.5 million government funding for a three year period from April 2012 to March 2015.