The new National Planning Policy Framework and wildlife

The Department for Communities and Local Government's new National Planning Policy Framework came into effect at the end of March.

When the draft proposals were announced many of the leading conservation groups expressed alarm at what was being proposed. They feared a relaxation of the planning laws that would have had an adverse effect on wildlife. However, during the consultation period many of the concerns of the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and other conservation bodies seem to have been listened to and have been adopted into the final draft. There are though still some grey areas, with some commentators saying lawyers will be the biggest beneficiaries from the new policy!. Time will tell how things work out in practice.

Of particular interest to the Wivenhoe area are our Sites of Special Scientific Interest*.  In the original draft of the NPPF the protection of the SSSIs was in danger. Local authorities would have been obliged to consent development "unless the adverse impacts of allowing the development would significantly and
demonstrably outweigh the benefits." But in the final draft there appears to have been a re-think on this.

The final draft of the policy framework now has this to say about the SSSIs:-

"...proposed development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific
Interest likely to have an adverse effect on a Site of Special Scientific
Interest (either individually or in combination with other developments)
should not normally be permitted. Where an adverse effect on the site’s
notified special interest features is likely, an exception should only be made
where the benefits of the development, at this site, clearly outweigh both
the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it
of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national
network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest"

The NPPF also has some encouraging things to say about the creation and protection of "wildlife corridors".
Many species are dependent on these habitat corridors and there is no point in having isolated conservation 
areas without the means for wildlife to move between them. Unfortunately the National Farmers Union has come
out with a very negative attack on this aspect of the policy, describing it as "extremely worrying".

In a press release the NFU said:

 " will be surprised that the NPPF provides planning status for Nature Improvement Areas and introduces the concept of ‘stepping stones’ and ‘wildlife corridors’ as part of the countryside hierarchy. In addition, the ‘new opportunity for local green space to be mapped in local and neighbourhood plans with protection equivalent to green belt land’ is extremely worrying."

This is a very disappointing response. There really shouldn't be a mismatch between the need to preserve biodiversity in our countryside and the needs of farmers. RSPB schemes working with farmers have shown that wildlife friendly farming can have benefits to both wildlife and farmers.

* out of interest Wivenhoe Forum member Chris Gibson
was responsible for defining and designating the SSSI's  around here for English Nature back in the early 1990s

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