Image: Paul Hobson
The final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) shows evidence that the Government has listened to concerns expressed by The Wildlife Trusts and other environmental bodies following publication of the draft last summer.
Its language, although still strongly promoting economic growth, is more balanced than previously and its approach to sustainable development in particular recognises the environmental and social dimensions of this concept stressing the interdependence of the three components. Moreover, it recognises the need for biodiversity suggesting that sustainable development “involves moving from net loss of biodiversity to achieving net gains for the future”, something we clearly support.
Our task now is to ensure local plans, which form the cornerstone of the new system, address ambitions in the NPPF for landscape-scale conservation
Some of our other concerns have also been alleviated – the NPPF now prioritises development of brownfield land before greenfields and gives local authorities a year in which to get their local plans in place. Local Sites are recognised as forming components of ecological networks and Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) are now included in the Framework, which we welcome, though neither are given the status in the planning system that we hoped. All-in–all though, the NPPF is a better document than many in our sector feared it would be.
Our task now is to ensure local plans, which form the cornerstone of the new system, address ambitions in the NPPF for landscape-scale conservation and improvement, and identify local ecological networks and sites of local wildlife importance. As many local authorities no longer have ecologists on their staff, this is an important and potentially time-consuming task for The Wildlife Trusts, but a necessary one for the planning system to work in a way that protects and enhances wildlife rather than damaging it.