Planning reforms in England: National Planning Policy Framework

A Local Wildlife Site in Leicestershire (photo by Neil Talbot)

Local authorities will be key in making the final National Planning Policy Framework deliver for wildlife.

In April 2012 the Government published a new National Planning Policy Framework. 

The final NPPF addressed some of The Wildlife Trusts' concerns about the original proposals, accepting the importance of planning positively for the natural environment and recognising Nature Improvement Areas (NIAS )and locally designated sites, including Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs).

The natural world is the cornerstone to the health of our nation and its health should be at the very top of every agenda. I hope this new framework has the potential to make this a reality.
Simon King OBE, March 2012

While progress has been made, the key to the success of the NPPF will be the implementation by local authorities through local and neighbourhood plans.

Role of local authorities

The planning system is vital for protecting important wildlife sites and identifying where the potential exists to restore and recreate habitat and ecosystems. The NPPF sets out national guidelines, but the ability of the planning system to have a positive impact on the natural environment will depend on local authorities having up to date local and neighbourhood plans which recognise the value of nature.

Local authorities have until March 2013 to ensure that their local plans are in conformity with the NPPF. The Wildlife Trusts are calling on local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan, based on sound evidence which:

  • Sets out a clear strategy for the creation, protection, enhancement and management of the natural environment at a landscape scale through cooperation with other local authorities, local partners and Local Nature Partnerships where they exist.
  • Identifies and maps existing and potential components of local ecological networks including international, national and locally designated sites (LWSs), areas of opportunity for restoration and creation and Nature Improvement Areas.
  • Embeds protection policies for protected wildlife sites including Local Wildlife Sites, recognising the important contribution they make to wider ecological networks.

The Wildlife Trusts will continue working with communities and local authorities to provide the tools they need to ensure that local plans deliver for wildlife.


Nature Positive Plans

In 2015, The Wildlife Trusts and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds commissioned an independent consultancy, to assess how the NPPF biodiversity policies are being implemented in local plans.

The research looked at 30 Local Plans in England adopted since the introduction of the NPPF. While there are positive examples, many local plans miss the opportunity to set out a positive vision of what they might do for the natural environment in their area. This would help them to meet multiple priority objectives, such as: the health and wellbeing of communities; flood alleviation; climate change; and species protection, mitigation and adaptation. 

Read The Nature Positive Plans Report