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As a concept, conservation covenants are private, voluntary agreements between a landowner and responsible body, such as a conservation charity or public body. They provide for conservation of the natural environment and heritage assets for the public good. They set out obligations in respect of the land they relate to, and bind current and subsequent owners of the land, so have the potential to deliver long-lasting conservation benefits. An oft-cited example is that of a farmer agreeing to maintain a piece of woodland, allowing public access, overseen by a local woodland charity.
Conservation covenants are seen to complement statutory or policy-based conservation designations, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or National Parks, providing a means of privately protecting land which has conservation value, but which does not fall within the public system of land designation.
In 2012, the Law Commission began investigating whether there was a case for introducing conservation covenants into the law of England and Wales to allow landowners to ensure the long-term conservation of features such as habitats and historic buildings. There was a feeling that legal arrangements historically used to regulate or enforce the conservation of privately owned land had significant limitations: for example, restrictive covenants could only be used to enforce negative covenants and
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