Planning for a healthy and natural environment?

Wednesday 28th August 2013

The Wildlife Trusts’ response to the Government's streamlined planning guide online, launched today.

As Planning Minister Nick Boles today launches an online planning guidance resource, The Wildlife Trusts reiterate that the natural environment should be at the heart of all planning decisions.

Planning has a critical role to play in securing nature’s recovery and creating wildlife-rich places in which people want to live.

The right guidance and access to local expertise is essential in ensuring the planning system helps to achieve a more sustainable and wildlife-rich future in the long term

The Wildlife Trusts therefore support the need to provide up-to-date, relevant guidance, in a single location, as it could help to support the effective delivery of plan-making and decision-making.

However, whilst making information more easily accessible and engaging people in the planning process is welcome, The Wildlife Trusts also express serious concerns.

The Government’s approach to ‘streamlining’ must not be used as an excuse to miss out essential details, that provide clarity, as this could lead to bad decision-making, and wholly avoidable impacts on the natural environment.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Positive planning avoids damage to the natural environment.  It works to actively put nature back on the map, through well sited and designed developments which are good for people, for wildlife and for the economy.  This new resource should therefore be about providing better guidance to help make better, not just quicker, decisions.

“The right guidance and access to local expertise is essential in ensuring the planning system helps to achieve a more sustainable and wildlife-rich future in the long term.  At the moment, only a third of planning authorities have an ecologist, which makes achieving gains for nature even more difficult.

“In its pursuit of brevity, and desire to streamline, the Government must ensure that this one-stop-shop still has enough on the shelves.”

The new National Planning Practice Guidance online resource is being opened initially in a test mode for six weeks for public comment with a final go-live planned for the autumn.  The Wildlife Trusts urge people to visit and give their views during this short window of opportunity.

Timeline

August 2013: The Government launches an online planning guidance resource

May 2013: Government published a response to the consultation and confirmed that it accepted the majority of the review group recommendations.

December 2012 – February 2013: Consultation on how these recommendations should be taken forward. The Wildlife Trusts submitted a response.

December 2012: Recommendations of the review group were published. The group made recommendations on existing guidance that needed canceling or updating and areas where new guidance were needed. The group also made recommendations on how this resource should be presented and managed

October 2012: Government initiated a review of English planning guidance.  The purpose was to streamline and reduce the 6,000 + pages of existing planning guidance, with the intended aim of ‘making the planning system swifter and more accessible’.  The review was undertaken by Lord Taylor and an external review group.

July 2012: ‘Planning for a healthy environment: good practice for green infrastructure and biodiversity’, was published by The Wildlife Trusts and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).  It provides practical guidance for practitioners to ensure nature is taken into account when shaping local areas and that local plans deliver a network of wildlife-rich places.  The guide was 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. http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/planning

March 2012: 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.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Planning