Giving nature a place in planning

Posted on 22nd September 2011

Protection for Local Wildlife Sites needs strengthening

Areas of critical importance for wildlife are overlooked in the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), say The Wildlife Trusts.

The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that under the proposed reforms Local Wildlife Sites will be left bereft of the protection they currently have. The current planning system is the principal means of protection for Local Wildlife Sites, which are not protected by law. There are more than 40,000 Local Wildlife Sites in England. All play a critical conservation role by providing wildlife refuges, protecting threatened species and habitats, and acting as links and corridors between designated sites.

It is crucial that any changes to the planning system continue to protect Local Wildlife Sites. However, they are not formally recognised in the draft NPPF. The Wildlife Trusts want the recognition of Local Wildlife Sites in national planning policy strengthened, as recommended in the report Making Space For Nature which reviewed England’s ecological networks.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: “The proposed planning reforms leave Local Wildlife Sites without sufficient safeguards. It is imperative that the importance of protecting these sites is recognised. There is a real need to retain and strengthen the protection afforded to Local Wildlife Sites.

The Wildlife Trusts are calling for the Government to make the following changes to its planning proposals:
• Provide greater recognition and protection to Local Wildlife Sites: there are more than 40,000 in England, an area 4.5 times the size of Greater London. The protection for these sites needs to be maintained and strengthened.
• Require local plans to identify Nature Improvement Areas: The Natural Environment White Paper gave the go-ahead for these large areas where nature’s restoration would have greater priority. Any planning framework will be critical to achieving Nature Improvement Areas and yet they have no mention in the draft NPPF.

The Wildlife Trusts believe the planning system should reflect the long-term interests of the public, as well as the commitment the Government made to protect our natural environment, in its Natural Environment White Paper .

There is a stated intention within the NPPF to enhance the natural environment which is welcomed. However, specific recommendations on Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Improvement Areas have been omitted, both of which are recognised in the White Paper as key mechanisms for restoring the natural environment.

Stephanie Hilborne continued: “The restoration of the natural environment is important to our long-term economic recovery and quality of life. The draft NPPF’s strong focus on short-term economic growth raises serious concerns for us that the protection and restoration of the natural environment could be hindered.”

The Wildlife Trusts are urging the public to use the final weeks of a consultation period into the NPPF to voice their concerns for wildlife. The consultation closes on Monday 17 October.

What you can do:
• Write to your local MP and councillor – tips can be found at wildlifetrusts.org/nppf. You can find your MP or Councillors’ details at theyworkforyou.com or local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/index.jsp?LGSL=358&LGIL=8
• Provide a response to the Government’s public consultation.
• Spread the word: encourage your friends and family to take action and share this link www.wildlifetrusts.org/nppf on social networking sites.