National Planning Policy Framework

Friday 16th September 2011

Warndon Villages, WorcesterWarndon Villages, Worcester

The Wildlife Trusts believe the land-use planning system is fundamental to securing nature’s recovery. In principle, The Wildlife Trusts support the consolidation of planning policy outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but the draft NPPF is dominated by a weighting in favour of economic growth and risks weakening existing wildlife protection.

The Wildlife Trusts believe the Government should:

  • Remove the primacy given to economic development in the draft NPPF and reinstate the importance of the natural environment;
  • Require local plans to identify Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). The NEWP introduced the concept of NIAs: large areas where nature’s restoration would have greater priority. Land use planning will be critical to achieving NIAs and yet they have no mention in the draft NPPF;
  • Protect Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) – there are 40,000 LWS in England – an area 4.5 times the size of Greater London. Having had some protection to date through planning, these sites would no longer have specific protection.
What is the value of the natural environment?

The natural environment provides us with the food, water and air that are essential to life and the minerals and raw materials needed for industry and our consumption. The recent UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) confirmed the critical importance of the natural environment to our well-being and economic prosperity. The NEA report states that ‘government and society need to account better for the value of nature, particularly the services and resources it provides’.

How can the planning system help improve the natural environment?

The planning system is vital for protecting important wildlife sites and identifying where the potential exists to restore habitat and ecosystems. The NPPF is a key opportunity to drive positive planning for nature, including across local authority boundaries.

What should be the definition of sustainable development in the NPPF?

The NPPF should draw on the UK’s 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future. It identified five clear principles of: ‘living within environmental limits and providing a just society by means of a sustainable economy, good governance and sound science’.

Why should Nature Improvement Areas be included in the NPPF?

A key Government policy in the Natural Environment White Paper is the establishment of Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). Partnerships of local authorities, local communities and landowners, the private sector and conservation organisations are developing proposals for NIAs, based on a local assessment of opportunities for restoring and connecting nature on a significant scale. The NPPF must support the development of NIAs with guidance on their identification within local plans.

Why do Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) need protection?

Alongside sites with statutory protection, eg National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, LWS represent the minimum habitat in need of protection to maintain current levels of wildlife. Across England, LWS account for over 710,000 hectares of wildlife habitat but the planning system is their only protection.

How should the transition to the NPPF be managed?

Local authorities must be given sufficient opportunity to develop new local plans once the NPPF is adopted. The removal of national policy guidance means that local plans will need to be developed in a wide range of areas.

Next steps?

Publication of the final version of the NPPF has been delayed until spring 2012 and the Trusts continue to lobby for changes to strengthen the protection of wildlife through the planning system.  In december 2011 we supported comments made by the The Communities and Local Government Select Committee, which published a series of welcome recommendations for changes to the NPPF.

For more details you can download the committee report.

Tagged with: NPPF, Planning