Planning for a healthy and natural environment

Monday 9th July 2012

Bee cpt Paul HobsonBee cpt Paul Hobson

New practical guidance for planners, launched today, is set to provide local authorities with all they need to ensure local plans deliver a network of wildlife-rich places in their area.

‘Planning for a healthy environment: good practice for green infrastructure and biodiversity’, has been published by The Wildlife Trusts and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), in partnership with a wide range of organisations.  It provides guidance for practitioners to ensure nature is taken into account when shaping local areas.

The planning system in England has a central role to play in the protection and restoration of the natural environment.  Ensuring green infrastructure1 is protected, restored, created and managed through the strategic planning process, and specific planning decisions, is at the heart of this guidance.

The natural environment plays a fundamental role in sustaining our collective future. It is widely recognised that people’s connection with nature can increase their health and well-being.  The natural environment also provides a range of additional economic, social and environmental services without which society could not function.

Led by The Wildlife Trusts and TCPA, the guide has been prepared with input from statutory and non statutory organisations with expertise in planning green infrastructure and biodiversity.  Endorsed by more than 30 organisations, it summarises the latest policy drivers; distils the best approaches and good practice; and signposts sources of further detailed information.

The guide will be launched at an event in the House of Commons, jointly hosted by the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and George Hollingbery MP, Communities and Local Government Select Committee Member. Speakers include Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts and .Dr Hugh Ellis, Chief Planner at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

George Hollingbery MP, said:

“Sustainability is at the heart of the new National Planning Policy Framework and Green Infrastructure will play a key role in achieving that sustainability.

“This new publication will be an invaluable tool for those involved in the planning process and is to be heartily welcomed.

“In publishing this guide, TCPA and The Wildlife Trusts have made a valuable contribution to creating a better planning system that will help look after all our interests for the long term.”

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, said:

“Humankind has finally come to realise that the natural world does not just inspire awe and wonder, and lift our spirits, but that it also helps sustain our very existence.  Green infrastructure gives us water, food, fuel, medicines, and helps to clean the air, and we now understand the economic cost of getting things wrong.  That is why we have to take it into account in future decisions about what we develop and where.

“I greatly welcome the new guidance on green infrastructure and biodiversity which The Wildlife Trusts and the Town and Country Planning Association have produced.  I know it will be a practical guide to planners and others as they seek to find a better balance in the way in which we undertake sustainable development while seeking to protect and enhance the wonder that we see around us, and which lie beneath our seas, for future generations."

Stephanie Hilborne, said:

“The planning system must live up to its potential role in creating vital ecological networks and wildlife-rich places - where people want to live.  In producing this guidance, we have worked with more than 60 organisations to share best practice and encourage planners and developers to take a positive and visionary approach.

“Wildlife Trusts are responsible for advising on and managing green space in and around developments throughout England.  We help to deliver practical solutions that protect and enhance the natural environment and provide a better quality of life for individuals and communities.”

Dr Hugh Ellis, Chief Planner at the TCPA, said:

“The guide re-emphasises that the natural environment should be at the heart of all planning decisions and sets out the opportunities for enhancing the well-being of communities through green infrastructure and open space.”

In March, the National Planning Policy Framework gave local authorities a year in which to get their local plans in place, embedding policies which deliver strategic green infrastructure to protect important wildlife sites and species in local and neighbourhood plans.  This guide has been designed to offer advice on how green infrastructure and wildlife can be protected and enhanced through Local Plan policies and development management decisions, working within those policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Case studies
Local plans, which form the cornerstone of the new system, can address ambitions in the NPPF for landscape-scale conservation and improvement, and identify local ecological networks and sites of local wildlife importance.  Planning can play a number of roles in delivering green infrastructure, including:

a) Strategic planning and early engagement

Cambourne is a new settlement nine miles west of Cambridge.  It was conceived in the 1990s as a series of three interlinked villages and comprises 4,200 dwellings, a local village centre, a business park, leisure facilities, and significant areas of multi-functional green space.  It is the green spaces that mark Cambourne out, with 60% of the new settlement area set aside as various types of green space, including pre-existing woodlands as well as a variety of new areas, such as woodland planting, meadows, lakes, amenity grassland, playing fields, allotments, and formal play areas.  In addition, there are 12 miles of new footpaths, cycleways and bridleways and 10 miles of new hedgerows.

It is not just the area and variety of green space that set Cambourne apart; it is the manner in which they were designed.  The settlement’s design respected the existing landscape character, identifying existing habitat features and using them as the building blocks for the network of green spaces and as the framework within which the settlement would grow.  In effect, the areas of green space were designed before the built environment.  The green spaces network does not just frame each of the three individual villages, but also joins them together and permeates each of them, giving residents easy access to the whole network. Management of the green spaces is undertaken by the new Cambourne Parish Council and the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants.  The land will eventually be transferred to each of these organisations.

b) Securing sufficient resources for management and maintenance (S106 agreements)

Portbury Wharf
Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve comprises 47 hectares of wetland, open water and hay meadows, and was created as a result of a unique partnership arrangement between North Somerset Council, Avon Wildlife Trust, the developers (Persimmon), and residents of the Port Marine ‘urban village’.

Planning consent for Port Marine was given on condition that a nature reserve would be created on land adjoining the development – the ongoing costs of which would be met by the property owners of the 2,650 new houses.  Avon Wildlife Trust took responsibility for the management of the newly created reserve in October 2010 and will, once the development is complete, take on full ownership. The annual charge to residents is fixed each autumn by an intermediary management company.  The revenue funding received by Avon Wildlife Trust pays for reserve management and community engagement.  In return, residents qualify for free membership of Avon Wildlife Trust, a regular newsletter, and access to nature on their doorstep.

Braeburn Park
Braeburn Park Nature Reserve in Crayford, South East London, is the result of a Section 106 agreement with the London Borough of Bexley and the current landowner, Taylor-Wimpey, following the development of the Braeburn Park residential neighbourhood in the early 2000s.  Given the site’s complexities (it was once an old orchard, Victorian landfill and shooting club, as well as partly a gravel extraction site and geological SSSI), coupled with concerns over contamination and the management of the geological assets, partnership with the Land Trust and Natural England has been essential.  The 20 hectare site will be managed from 2012 by London Wildlife Trust as a fully accessible nature reserve, with a strong invertebrate interest.

Download ‘Planning for a healthy environment: good practice for green infrastructure and biodiversity’ at

1 Green infrastructure including statutory and non statutory wildlife sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Local Sites), allotments, green spaces, playing fields, parks, play areas and gardens.

Led by The Wildlife Trusts and TCPA the guide has been prepared with input from the statutory and non statutory organisations which have expertise in planning green infrastructure and biodiversity.  More than 150 organisations and individuals were consulted, with at least 60 making active and constructive contributions.  The following 34 organisations endorse the guidance:

Aggregate Industries
ivision Consulting
Association of Local Government Ecologists
Landscape Institute
Butterfly Conservation
National Trust
Byerley Ltd - Environmental Consultancy
Open Spaces Society
Campaign for National Parks
Oxford Brookes University
Central Bedfordshire Council
Play England
Climate South East
Climate UK
Royal Horticultural Society
Collingwood Environmental Planning Limited
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
Town and Country Planning Association
Forest of Marston Vale
The Wildlife Trusts
Friends of the Earth
The Woodland Trust
Grasslands Trust
Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust
Green LINK
Wildlife and Countryside Link
Green Space
Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts
Institute of Horticulture
Wildlife Gardening Forum
Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC)
Living Streets

Planning for a healthy environment: good practice for green infrastructure and biodiversity’, has been funded by the following organisations; Climate UK, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Ramblers, Royal Horticultural Society, Woodland Trust, Wildlife Gardening Forum and Sustain.

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT)
All 37 individual Wildlife Trusts in England are actively engaged in the planning system, reviewing more than 70,000 planning applications last year.

There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.

The Town and Country Planning Association
The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) is an independent campaigning charity calling for more integrated planning based on the principles of accessibility, sustainability, diversity, and community cohesion. The TCPA puts social justice and the environment at the heart of the debate about planning policy, housing and energy supply. We inspire government, industry and campaigners to take a fresh perspective on major issues including climate change and regeneration.

Launch: Live updates


FilenameFile size
Green Infrastructure Guide (TCPA & The Wildlife Trusts)7.02 MB
Annex to Green Infrastructure Guide97.8 KB

Tagged with: Living Landscapes