Natural England in partnership with the Environment Agency launched The Improvement Programme for England’s Natura 2000 Sites (IPENS) in April 2013 with €1.8m of EU LIFE+ funding support. The Programme developed a shared understanding of issues affecting the condition of Natura 2000 sites, what was needed to tackle them and who should do it through the production of Site Improvement Plans, strategic Theme Plans and by funding a range of evidence projects. Collectively over 3000 actions to tackle issues across the Natura 2000 network were proposed. At the close of the IPENS LIFE+ project in 2015 an ‘AfterLIFE’ Implementation Plan set out how conservation activities would continue and develop.
The Implementation Plan was put into practice by Natural England through two linked projects: the IPENS Prioritisation Project and the IPENS Implementation Project. The Implementation Project was managed nationally and advised by an Implementation Steering Group with representatives from Natural England and partner organisations. Responsibility for the implementation of Site Improvement Plans, IPENS funded evidence projects and Theme Plans was given to Natural England Area Teams and specialist staff, working with partners as appropriate. The Project Manager oversaw direct implementation, indirect implementation through the contributions of wider work and communication.