Interim head of nature watchdog appointed to permanent role
Marian Spain has been appointed as the new chief executive of Natural England, taking the post on a permanent basis after serving as interim chief executive since December 2018.
The government announced yesterday that the former chief executive at conservation charity Plant Life International has now been confirmed in the role, heading up the environmental agency.
Natural England chair Tony Juniper welcomed the decision, praising Spain's "unrivalled commitment to protect and enhance our natural environment [and] excellent leadership skills".
"It is so important not only for Natural England but also our environment to have someone with Marian's passion and experience to lead our teams at this vital time for conservation," he added. "She will ensure that the organisation can meet the challenge of restoring nature, which lies at the heart of the government's environmental policy, as the country recovers from the impact of coronavirus."
His comments were echoed by Environment Secretary George Eustice, who highlighted the crucial role the agency will play in the coming years.
"As we focus on setting environmental policy and farming support outside the European Union, Natural England has never been so important," he said. "I am looking forward to working further with Marian as we link together our wide range of initiatives to restore this nation's nature."
Spain said it had been "an honour to lead Natural England's exceptional, talented and passionate teams".
"Every day our people work incredibly hard to make life in our country better," she said. "The future of Natural England is an exciting one as we build the partnerships we need to help nature thrive, so that we have a healthier planet and healthier people."
Spain has extensive experience working in environmental policy and campaigning circles, having spent four years at Plantlife International, as well as stints on the board at Natural England, as a trustee of the Campaign for National Parks, and as a senior executive at OFWAT and the Energy Saving Trust.
The appointment comes at a time when the advisory body is expected to play a central role in the government's post-Brexit oversight and policy regime.
However, it also follows a period of some controversy at the agency, which has seen warnings about the impact of extensive budget cuts for Natural England and the stepping down of former CEOs James Cross and Andrew Sells amidst complaints that the independence of the agency had been under pressure with some staff reallocated to work at Defra on Brexit planning.
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