From today, 1st October 2006, all public sector bodies, from the police to the BBC, will have to consider biodiversity in the work they do. The new duty comes under Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act.

The aim is to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales, eventually to a point where biodiversity issues become second nature to everyone making decisions in the public sector. Over 900 public bodies will be affected, ranging from local authorities, fire, police and health bodies, to museums and transport authorities.

Defra, in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Association of Local Government Ecologists, English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, Welsh Assembly and Wildlife and Countryside Link are working on developing guidance to assist those affected in fulfilling their responsibilities.

In recognition of the key role local authorities play with regard to conserving and enhancing biodiversity, there will be two sets of guidance:

* specific guidance aimed at the needs and requirements of Local Authorities; and

* a more generic guidance aimed at all public bodies affected.

The guidance will be produced in paper and electronic versions and is expected to be published in early 2007.