JTP is committed to supporting Nature Recovery. To halt the catastrophic loss of wildlife in England, the Wildlife Trusts have called for a new designation of land ‘Wildbelt’, where nature recovery is prioritised. They have set a target of 30% land for nature by 2030. JTP supports this initiative.
We welcome the emphasis on design codes in the White Paper and believe that codes and associated masterplans can help Nature Recovery by establishing a network of green and blue infrastructure within Growth and Renewal and Protected areas. We would like to see ‘coding for nature’ included as a requirement for all local design codes.
We are concerned that several proposed planning reforms could lead to further destruction of natural habitat; these include, the abolition of Local Authorities’ Duty to Co-operate and of the Sustainability Appraisal system, the simplification of environmental impact assessment requirements, and the reduced scope of public involvement in planning.
Wildlife does not recognise local authority boundaries. The reforms would abolish the requirement for local authorities to co-operate on cross boundary issues. Although many people agree that the Duty to Cooperate is not working well, something needs to be put in place to ensure natural habitats are protected and linked across local authority boundaries. We would like to see sub-regional spatial strategies introduced with boundaries based on spatial geography and economic activity. The planning reforms should be amended to place greater emphasis on making space for Nature Recovery with national policies and sub-regional strategies providing the framework for Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans.
The White Paper proposes to ‘abolish the Sustainability Appraisal system and develop a simplified process for assessing the environmental impact’ of Local Plans. In his introduction the Prime Minister refers to a ‘reduction in site-specific surveying’ to speed up the process. We are concerned that the tight timescale for producing Local Plans will be insufficient to carry out ecological surveys before designating land for development and granting ‘permissions in principle’. This could lead to ecologically valuable habitat being lost forever.
At planning application stage, the intention is to ‘design a quicker, simpler framework for assessing environmental impacts and enhancement opportunities, that speeds up the process while protecting and enhancing the most valuable and important habitats and species in England.’ The emphasis in the White Paper is on speed and simplification without sufficient detail to understand whether sufficient environmental protection will be included.
The proposals to speed up the planning approval process by reducing public engagement at application stage would eliminate the very valuable input local communities make in the detailed planning of green spaces. Communities are the experts in their own places and are best placed to judge the value of local wildlife sies in providing access to nature with all the physical and mental health benefits that brings to people.
- Introduce sub-regional spatial plans.
- Ensure proposed changes to Sustainability Appraisals and Environmental Impact Assessments do not weaken protection for nature.
- Reconsider timetable for Local Plans to ensure enough time is available for preparing and analysing environmental surveys and for engaging local communities.
- Include ‘Wildbelt’ as category of Land in Local Plans to make provision for nature recovery.