Principal Environmental and Planning Solicitor - ref : 5688

Natural England

Apply before 11:55 pm on Wednesday 21st February 2024



Reference number



A Civil Service Pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Job grade

Grade 7
Principal Adviser

Contract type


Type of role

Legal Services

Working pattern

Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Number of jobs available



East Midlands (England), East of England, London (region), North East England, North West England, South East England, South West England, West Midlands (England), Yorkshire and the Humber

Job summary

This position is based Nationally

Job description

Do you have a passion for nature and the environment? Do you want to make a real difference and secure significant environmental gains in the present and the future? Do you enjoy working in a team? Can you see yourself advising communities and customers to maximise gains for the Natural Environment?


If this appeals to you, a career at Natural England offers rewarding opportunities to secure environmental improvements and play your part in creating a better future for people and nature.


The priority work Natural England is delivering includes:


  • Establishing a Nature Recovery Network to help wildlife thrive
  • Monitoring environmental changes to identify and help reduce the effects of climate change
  • Working with farmers and landowners to develop greener food production methods
  • Advising on plans for new developments to maximise gains for nature
  • Providing ways for people to better connect with nature, including green social prescribing


We are the Government’s Adviser for the natural environment, playing a vital role in delivering the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, an ambitious vision which brings new opportunities to protect and enhance and to achieve real outcomes for the environment.


Find out more about the work of Natural England at

Job description   

Key Tasks/Accountabilities


  •  Line managing, inspiring, and coaching legal colleagues on delivery, ways of working and personal development.
  • Supporting and supervising legal colleagues on their case work, work allocation and prioritisation.
  • Assisting with induction of new team members.

 Casework - Managing Legal Risks and Providing Innovative Legal Solutions

  •  Adopting a flexible approach to managing casework and legal risk that can absorb new roles and responsibilities as needed to deliver Natural England’s aims. Proactively horizon scanning for emerging risks.
  • Jointly leading and supporting on the Sustainable Development Programme workstream and sub-groups, such as advice on planning and infrastructure matters and species licensing work.
  • Supporting the move from project-based case work to plan-based nature conservation including on plans for places and reform of species licensing. For licensing, this includes advising on strategic licensing approaches such as District Level Licensing, Earned Recognition and Species Conservation Strategies.
  • Providing clear, pragmatic, and innovative advice and solutions on complex casework, particularly on protected sites, Habitats Regulations Assessments, and protected species. This includes advising and managing legal input on planning appeals, planning inquiries, nationally significant infrastructure projects, policy sensitive wildlife cases (such as hen harriers), and litigation (drawing upon specialist advocacy expertise) to ensure that legal and governance risks are assessed, understood, and properly managed.
  • Advising on diffuse pollution casework and water resources casework including Natural England’s water quality advice, nutrient neutrality mitigation, air quality issues, and emerging green finance schemes. Working closely with practitioners and specialists to identify and manage risks.
  • Advising on public law, governance and vires issues including encouraging and implementing corporate discipline about the use of the schemes of delegation.
  • Establishing close links with colleagues working on Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and conservation covenants to understand and advise on the connection with the planning system, and mechanisms of securing mitigation.
  • Advising and supporting on commercial matters associated with this role such as agreements to secure mitigation, and data licensing for protected species matters.
  • Contributing to regular legal risk reviews and recommendations.

 Supporting the Development of Post-EU Exit Environmental Law and Governance

  •  Contributing with legal support to the development of post-EU Exit environmental law and governance, including proposed reforms linked to nature conservation; and implementation of the Environment Act and Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023.

 Raising Capability and External Relationships

  •  Contributing to devising and delivering an in-house legal training programme for the Legal Services team and across Natural England.
  • Providing thought leadership on environmental law matters internally and within relevant Government legal teams to develop Natural England’s reputation as a trusted and expert body.
  • Developing relationships with key external stakeholders to influence outcomes including counterparts in Defra, DLUHC, EA and Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies.

 Leadership and Collaboration

  •  Contributing to and supporting the Legal Services Team to ensure a high performing and motivated team including improving ways of working for the best use of legal resources, contributing to high quality team deep dives and communications.
  • Supporting collaboration across the Legal Governance and External Affairs Team and Natural England’s Senior Leadership.
  • Deputising for the Legal Deputy Directors from time to time.
  • Regularly updating the Deputy Directors on legal case work. Reporting to and advising the Legal Director, Chief Officer, NExCo, High Risk Casework Panel and Complex Casework unit on contentious cases.
  • Assisting with management of the legal budget and resources associated with this role.
  • Adopting a flexible approach to leadership that can absorb new roles and responsibilities as needed.
  • Travel and some overnight stays across England to attend meetings are an essential part of this role.


Please note that the salary range for this post is £48,434 - £57,222.  Whilst it is NE's policy to appoint at salary minimum, a higher starting salary within the pay range may be considered for exceptional candidates. There is currently a further market skills allowance for this role of £6,000, which may be subject to change.

Wherever possible Natural England accommodates requests for both full-time and part-time hours and other flexible working patterns to help employees achieve a good work/life balance and maintain their health and wellbeing.

Candidates with disabilities will automatically be put forward to the interview stage provided that they satisfy the minimum criteria for the role. Flexible working patterns will generally be accommodated unless stated otherwise.

Natural England provides excellent opportunities for career progression, training and development tailored to your role. From induction to ongoing learning and development, everyone in Natural England is supported to develop their skills and capabilities. Everyone has 10 days to devote to personal learning and development, as well as an additional 3 days to volunteer.

You will have access to Civil Service Pension and benefits arrangements and generous leave allowances (33 day per year pro rata), as well as flexible working, to help you achieve a work-life balance that works for you and us.

You will have access to a range of benefits including discounts on shopping vouchers, cycle to work scheme, and childcare vouchers. You can also join the Civil Service Sport club which offer discounts on a range of sports and leisure opportunities as well as social events.

Natural England is a fantastic place to work, where difference is celebrated.

We’re committed to fairness and equality for all, so you feel valued for who you are and what you do. Our shared values help us work together to benefit the communities we serve. Our thriving employee-led diversity networks support our inclusive culture and contribute to our Diversity Action Plan.


Natural England is adopting hybrid working – which means our staff work from a flexible range of locations, encompassing home, offices (ours and our partners) and relevant sites. All new staff will be formally linked to one of our 25 offices across England and the expectation is that all new staff will be able to access their local office to be part of the community of staff in their geographical area. Full time staff are expected to attend their associated office for a minimum of one day a week.
Staff members are required to carry out all their duties working in this way and cannot do so from an overseas location at any time. Travel expenses will be paid if work related travel is required but does not apply to travel between home and your associated office.

National team roles can be linked with any Natural England office while Area Team roles will be linked with an office in the relevant geographic area.

View a map of our office locations here:

How to Apply

We welcome and encourage applications from all communities. Natural England is accredited to the Disability Confident Scheme, which denotes organisations which have a positive attitude towards disabled people. Disabled applicants who meet the minimum requirements for the role at the shortlisting stage are guaranteed an invitation to interview.

If you require a reasonable adjustment at interview, or there is anything else you would like the panel to take into consideration, you should notify us of this at application stage where possible, or well in advance of your interview.

This vacancy uses competency-based assessment. We'll assess you against the competencies below during the selection process:

 Technical Skills and Knowledge

  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Putting People at the Heart of the Environment
  • Work Delivery

When completing the application form you should present relevant examples using the STAR format. Give us an example of how you have demonstrated the competency (which can be work related or from another area of your life) and tell us about the Situation, the specific Task you had to undertake, the specific Actions you took, and the Result (both immediate and in a wider context) of your doing so.

Please note that STAR format is not required when answering the Technical Skills & Knowledge competency.  Examples should be given in no more than 250 words for each competency.

Next Steps

If you are successful at the shortlisting stage, you will be invited to attend an interview via MS Teams or a suitable alternative, where you will be asked to give examples for all four competencies as set out in the Job Description.

Successful candidates will be allocated roles in merit order based on scores achieved at interview and in accordance with location preferences, taking into account the work area to which successful candidates are most suited, wherever possible.



Competence 1   

Professional competency



Technical Skills and Knowledge



  • A qualified senior solicitor with at least 5 years post qualification experience in environmental or planning law. (Essential).
    • Strong experience of advising on either:
    Environmental or nature conservation law. An understanding of protected sites and/or protected species is an advantage; or
    o A broad range of planning issues in England such as development control decisions, local plans, planning inquiries, national infrastructure projects. (Essential)
    • A keen interest in developing across nature conservation, planning and public law. Natural England’s specialist teams will be able to support your development in these areas so you can contribute to its nature recovery aims. (Essential)
    • Experience of advising on pragmatic and innovative legal solutions. (Essential)
    • Capable of managing, inspiring and supporting Senior Solicitors and Paralegals and establishing clear expectations around delivery, ways of working and personal development. (Essential)
    • Be able to work with minimum supervision to short deadlines and confidently analyse risks to reach balanced decisions. (Essential)


Competence 2   

Professional competency



Personal Effectiveness



  • Make and explain objective decisions which combine your professional judgement and evidence. (Expert)
    • Act with integrity, addressing challenging issues and managing conflict through being open and objective. (Practitioner)
    • Use clear and appropriate language, communication styles and techniques that engage your audience. (Expert)


Competence 3   

Professional competency



Putting People at the Heart of the Environment



  • Listen to and understand our diverse partners and customers so that you achieve the best outcomes for them and the organisation you represent. (Expert)
    • Nurture trusting partnerships and collaborate to achieve pragmatic outcomes that help deliver Natural England’s vision, mission and aims. (Expert)
    • Understand the external influences affecting the organisation you represent and assess the implication to the function e.g., Defra Policy, arm’s length body reviews. (Expert)


Competence 4  


Professional competency



Work Delivery



  • Manage and deliver your work to meet agreed targets and deadlines. (Expert)
    • Understand and be able to interpret relevant international, national, and local legislation, Conventions, byelaws statutory guidance and policy. (Expert)
    • Be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of corporate governance and risk within which the organisation you represent operates at a local, national, and international level. (Expert)

Person specification

Please refer to Job Description
Alongside your salary of £48,434, Natural England contributes £13,513 towards you being a member of the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme. Find out what benefits a Civil Service Pension provides.
  • Learning and development tailored to your role
  • An environment with flexible working options
  • A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • A Civil Service pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Selection process details

Please refer to Job Description

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.
People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities with settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities who have made a valid application for settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • individuals with limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain who were eligible to apply for EUSS on or before 31 December 2020
  • Turkish nationals, and certain family members of Turkish nationals, who have accrued the right to work in the Civil Service
Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles (opens in a new window).
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.
The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment (opens in new window).
Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

  • Name : Susie Robson
  • Email :
  • Telephone : 07768 544347

Recruitment team

  • Email :

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