Defra has confirmed the appointment of Tony Juniper CBE as chairman of the Natural England agency from April 23rd.

Mr Juniper’s naming as preferred candidate for the role earlier this year by Defra minister Michael Gove caused some concern in the industry – he is the current executive director for advocacy and campaigns at WWF-UK and president of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. Although he is to stand down from these posts to move to Natural England, Mr Juniper has a long record of opposition to some modern farming practices, particularly with Friends of the Earth, where he was executive director and vice chair of Friends of the Earth International.

Following Brexit, Natural England will play a larger role in implementing and administering the national UK farm support schemes, under the Environmental Land Management initiatives.

“Tony will bring great experience and passion to Natural England from a career dedicated to conservation from his role at WWF to advising the Prince of Wales,” comments Mr Gove. “Natural England has a key part to play in the government’s 25-year plan for the environment and ensuring we can protect nature for future generations.

“That is why I am looking forward to working with Tony as he leads the organisation and ensures Natural England can continue delivering the government’s environmental priorities.”

Mr Juniper adds: “Natural England’s vital role in defending and enhancing our nation’s natural environment has never been more important. Its work is very wide ranging, from protecting our National Nature Reserves to advising farmers and from opening England’s new coastal path to ensuring greater public access to our wonderful natural areas.

“As chair, my aim will be to celebrate, protect and deepen the impact of Natural England’s excellent work, not only for the sake of our wildlife and beautiful landscapes, but also for the huge benefits that our success brings for society.”