Natural England

Principal Lawyer, Commercial and Biodiversity Net Gain

Natural England

Natural England is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


Reference number





Grade 7

Principal Adviser

Contract type


Type of role

Environment and Sustainability
Legal Services

Working pattern

Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Number of posts




    About the job


    Things you need to know

    Apply and further information


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

About the job


This is a National Role

Job description

The team

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 advisor 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


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.

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 that our staff will 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 geographic area. 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. View a map of our office locations here:

Job description

Key tasks/accountabilities

As Principal Solicitor you will take a leading role in provide support and advice on a wide range of commercial and contractual matters to assist Natural England’s work across all its programmes. This will include development of Natural England’s role in Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

BNG is an approach that contributes to sustainable development where land is developed, and the natural environment is put in a measurable better state than before. This means protecting existing habitats and ensuring that lost or degraded environmental features are compensated for by restoration, or by creating features that are of greater environmental value. The Environment Act 2021 makes provision for the BNG approach to development to become mandatory in the English planning system.


  • 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.

Casework – Managing legal risks and providing innovative legal solutions

  • Ensuring legal and governance risks are identified, understood and properly managed by providing legal advice, assessment of legal risk and interpretation of legislation, policy and guidance affecting Natural England
  • Providing clear, pragmatic and innovative advice and solutions on complex commercial and projects casework such as funding/grant agreements, intellectual property matters, procurement and data protection
  • Leading and coordinating all legal and governance matters on Natural England’s BNG programme and proactively horizon scanning for emerging risks to ensure Natural England’s responsibilities are delivered on time for the launch and delivery of this important new Government approach.
  • Drafting and negotiating commercial and contractual arrangements. This will include using and developing existing precedents and drafting bespoke contracts
  • Leading on the legal application of Conservation Covenants within BNG and to secure nature-based solutions more widely
  • Advising on public law, governance and vires issues including encouraging and implementing corporate discipline about the use of the schemes of delegation
  • Instructing Counsel and/or other external legal providers
  • 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

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 legal 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 and other government departments, Environment Agency and other Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies

Leadership and collaboration

  • Collaborating with existing Principal lawyers, the wider Legal, Governance and External Affairs Team and Access to Information Team to provide an exemplary legal service to Natural England
  • Deputising for the Legal Deputy Director from time to time
  • Regularly updating the Deputy Director on legal case work so executive officers are appropriately briefed on legal risks and 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.

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

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.


Competence 1

Professional competency

Technical Skills & Knowledge

  • A qualified senior lawyer, qualified to practice in England and Wales, with at least 5 years post qualification experience (Essential)
    • Significant experience in advising on contractual and commercial matters in high profile and complex projects (Essential)
    • Experience in providing advice on public law or administrative law matters (Essential)
    • Capable of working collaboratively with the existing legal team, and developing, mentoring and supporting non-legal staff, Senior Solicitors and Paralegals (Essential)
    • Able to draft and deliver clear and coherent briefings on complex issues (Essential)

Competence 2

Professional competency

Personal Effectiveness

  • Make and explain objective decisions which combine your professional judgement and evidence (Expert)
    • Use clear and appropriate language, communication styles and techniques that engage your audience (Expert)
    • Share expertise and knowledge with people and networks so that you can develop together (Expert)

Competence 3

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 Natural England operates at a local, national, and international level (Expert)

Competence 4

Professional competency

Putting People at the Heart of the Environment

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


Please refer to Job Description


  • 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%

Things you need to know


Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.

People working with government assets must complete basic personnel security standard checks.

Selection process details

Please refer to Job Description

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

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with settled or pre-settled status or who apply for either status by the deadline of the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service
  • certain family members of the relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals

Further information on nationality requirements

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code 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.

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.

Apply and further information

The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment.

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 :

Recruitment team :

Further information

More jobs from Natural England:

If you require alternative methods of application or screening, you must approach Natural England directly to request this, as we're not responsible for the employer's application process.

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