Shall the NPPF secure Wildlife Gains?
The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) — which has immediate effect — could change the Planning Landscape.
Whilst many of the weaknesses of the consultation draft have been addressed, London Wildlife Trust still has concerns as to how effective — in times of austerity — the new slimmed down framework will be to protect the Green Spaces and Wildlife Habitats of Greater London and other Towns and Cities.
Local plans are meant to be the key in ensuring the protection and restoration of the natural environment in the new planning system. London Wildlife Trust’s CEO, Carlo Laurenzi OBE, says: “Whilst we are pleased to see that government has recognised the importance of planning positively for the natural environment and of including Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Improvement Areas, the onus will be on local authorities and communities working together to achieve this. Local authorities have a clear steer to help secure nature’s recovery by embedding policies to create vital ecological green infrastructure and protect important wildlife sites in local and neighbourhood plans. But given that many communities are disenfranchised or exhausted from a planning system that has been loaded against the natural environment within our towns, will this new system be any different?”
The ambition to achieve net gains for nature is welcome, as are the desires to improve the quality of new development. However, we remain concerned that the range of interests that will line up to meet the government’s desire ‘to do everything it can to support sustainable economic growth’ will compromise the quality of our urban natural environment.”
Simon King OBE, President of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“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.”
Contact information: Kate Symonds or Catherine Harris: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07834 867 420
London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital's wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London's diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. The Trust understands the need for development but argues development must be sustainable. www.wildlondon.org.uk.
Local Wildlife Sites
There are more than 40,000 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) in England which cover an area of at least 711,201 hectares; equating to an area 4.5 times the area of Greater London (assuming Greater London is 1,572km2). In London there are over 1500 LWS known as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.
The number of LWS lost to, or damaged by, built development in England in 2010 was at least 172. Of these, at least 25 were lost completely. This figure could have been much higher without the degree of protection under the previous planning system. All 37 individual Wildlife Trusts in England are actively engaged in the planning system, reviewing more than 70,000 planning applications last year.
Collectively, Local Wildlife Sites play a critical conservation role by providing wildlife refuges, acting as stepping stones, corridors and buffer zones to link and protect nationally, and internationally, designated sites. Together with statutory protected areas, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), they support locally, and often nationally, threatened species and habitats. With SSSIs they are the starting point for Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs).
LWS partnerships select all sites which meet the Local Wildlife Site selection criteria, whereas SSSIs are a representative sample of sites which meet the national standard. Consequently many sites of SSSI quality are not designated and instead are selected as Local Wildlife Sites. For some counties, they represent some of the best sites for biodiversity and provide important links to other core areas. In Wiltshire, 75% of broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland is found in LWS, compared with just 10% in SSSIs. In Nottinghamshire SSSIs cover 1.5% of the county compared with LWS which cover 10%. Similarly, in Birmingham, LWS account for 6.8% of land area compared with just 1.7% for SSSIs.
Nature Improvement Areas (NIA)
The Natural Environment White Paper made a commitment to establish Nature Improvement Areas. This was based on TWT’s idea of Ecological Restoration Zones, included in the report Making Space for Nature.
Making Space for Nature was very clear about the role of ERZ in contributing to the ecological network: “Establishing a coherent and resilient ecological network requires careful planning to ensure the contributions made by existing network components are maximised and new components, such as planned restoration areas, corridors and buffers, are in effective places, thereby ensuring we use precious resources and land in the most efficient ways.”
NIAs should enhance the ecological network by undertaking the following actions:
• Improving the management of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the size of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the number of wildlife sites
• Improving connectivity between sites
• Creating wildlife corridors
The Government also adopted the idea of starting with 12 pilot areas and Defra allocated £7.5 million to support them over three years. A panel shortlisted more than 70 applications to 15 and the final 12 NIAs were announced on 27 February 2012; one of which touches the eastern fringes of London.
The Natural Environment White Paper
The Government’s White Paper, published in June 2011, emphasises the intrinsic, economic and social value of the natural environment. It also endorses the need for a landscape-scale approach to securing nature’s recovery.
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