Looking back over 2019 and looking ahead to the new year and new decade we face vital opportunities to promote nature, through planning, development and housing building…
The Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning has been busy over the last year, seeking to encourage greater protection and enhancement of biodiversity through the planning system.
We celebrated the launch of the Wildlife Assessment Check (WAC) – our free pre-planning tool for smaller developers – with a special ‘Biodiversity in Planning’ exhibit at the House of Commons in July. The exhibit was introduced by Helen Hays MP and Sir Oliver Letwin MP, who highlighted the importance of cross-party support for the UK’s wildlife.
We promoted the WAC at numerous national events and workshops, including at the London Borough of Newham, who invited us to give a presentation to their planning team about the WAC tool. They commented that:
Newham receive over 4,000 planning applications a year. Only around five of those applications are larger developments which have to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and ecological appraisal. The remaining 3,995 are smaller applications who may be less aware of their biodiversity obligations and would benefit from the WAC and the guidance it provides.
Along with the national planning portal, around 18 local authorities already promote the WAC on their websites and we hope more will do so, to encourage householders and smaller developers to positively incorporate biodiversity into their proposals.
Behind the scenes, the Wildlife Assessment Check tool contains a series of Species Guidance Notes, which provides developers with further advice about legal protections, licencing, surveying, mitigating, and habitat enhancement for specific species. We have also produced a range of good practice case studies and two new guidance documents. First, a new guide for planners with the RTPI; ‘Biodiversity in planning: obligations and opportunities to promote biodiversity through the UK planning system’ outlines key legislation that planners need to address and a range of ways to better integrate biodiversity into local planning policy, with various case study examples from around the country. It aims to smooth out the planning application process for both developers and local authorities by encouraging an early appraisal of ecological impacts of development. The second is a guide for ecology consultants; ‘Biodiversity data search: guidance for ecological consultants’. It offers guidance on conducting, interpreting and reporting on biodiversity data searches (BDS) – or desk-based research – required for proposed developments on land. The guidance aims to improve the way that biodiversity data is collected and interpreted by ecological consultants to inform planning decisions.
2020 is looking to be an exciting but challenging year. The nations of the world will be meeting in China for the fifteenth United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. They will be discussing the global post-2020 biodiversity framework – creating a new 2050 vision for living in harmony with nature.
The new UK government and all of us will need to work hard to ensure we can reverse the biodiversity decline experienced in our own country, as the 2019 State of Nature report outlined. Commitments, including the proposed Biodiversity Net Gain requirement for new developments, offers us opportunities to create new communities and enhance existing ones that work in harmony with nature. We must work together to make it a reality!
The Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning project would like to wish you all a very wild and wonderful 2020!
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