New planning framework threatens nature

20th July 2011


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  • Natural resources ,
  • Local government ,
  • Construction ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity

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IEMA

The government's proposed framework overhauling planning guidance and policy will place local wildlife and UK biodiversity targets at risk, warns charity.

The Wildlife Trusts argues that the new national planning policy framework (NPPF) dilutes current planning regulations by failing to make specific reference to local wildlife sites.

These small, local sites provide a natural habitat for native flora and fauna and in total cover more than 710,000 hectares, almost 4% of England’s total land area. According to the charity, more than 170 such sites were lost or damaged during 2010 and it fears that without specific protection the figure could rise.

“We are deeply concerned that the government is putting the economic aims of the planning system ahead of its environmental commitments,” said Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape for the Wildlife Trusts.

“The loss of 0.05% of an important habitat from a site may be seen as a marginal loss by some but when this happens hundreds of times a year around England, the cumulative impact becomes significant.”

However, the Department for Communities and Local Government called the report inaccurate, saying the trusts’ interpretations of the NPPF were wrong.

“"The coalition government has no intention of weakening its commitment to the environment or removing protections that safeguard landscapes and preserve wildlife,” a spokesperson confirmed.

"We are consolidating thousands of pages of Whitehall planning guidance into one clear, short document but not at the expense of the environment. This clearer framework will continue and improve protections for wildlife sites for future generations while allowing for the creation of the new homes, jobs and businesses people want."

The trusts’ criticism of the NPPF followed negative reaction from environmentalists to the government’s recently published draft “Presumption in favour of sustainable development” which was seen as putting economic growth before environmental concerns.

“The [government’s] strong pro-economic growth focus suggests a presumption to the approval of development, without ensuring environmental and social sustainability,” confirmed Wilkinson.

“It raises serious concerns for us that the ongoing restoration of the natural environment, critical for its future recovery, could be hindered.

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