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Planning Applications Could Hit Record High for Wildlife Trust

Friday 5th December

Planning Applications Could Hit Record High for Wildlife Trust

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the county’s largest locally based conservation charity, currently screens all planning applications within the county to check for possible impacts on wildlifeand to ensure thatdevelopers have complied with legal responsibilities to protect threatened species or protected sites. The charity then submits comments to local planning authorities for those applications where it feels wildlife is at risk or where insufficient information has been provided for impacts to be properly assessed.  

 

This year has seen a huge number of applications for new development, mineral extractions and waste processing sites and by the end of October 2014 the Wildlife Trust had submitted 550detailed planning responses: nine more than for the whole of 2013.

 

Whilst most applications are small scale and pose no threat to wildlife, the Trust has noticed a marked increase in the number of applications, particularly in relation to minerals extraction or waste processing – with applications of this type exceeding the 2013 yearly total by August 2014.

 

Where the Wildlife Trust comments, it aims to secure positive gains for wildlife in 80% of cases, but as the Wildlife Trust engages with the planning process at all stages, many of its successes go unnoticed by the general public,

 

Erin McDaid, Head of Communications for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust explained: “The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is involved in planning issues very early on in the process, often before sites come to the public’s attention. We then work closely with planners, and where appropriate, with developers to suggest that sites be removed from local planning documents due to their sensitivity or value for particular species, or we make suggested improvements to plans that enable the development to proceed without impacting negatively on wildlife”

 

Where protection of sites can’t be secured at the early stages of a Local Development Framework, the Wildlife Trust sometimes has to make an official Objection to a site allocation or planning application. In some cases, where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a development will destroy crucial habitat or disturb protected species, the Charity will take legal action – as it did successfully in 2009 to prevent a waste incinerator being built on key areas of Sherwood Forest habitat at the former Rufford Colliery site. Having fought off the incinerator plans, the Wildlife Trust is currently advising on the long-term restoration of the site with new heathland habitat being created in the heart of Sherwood Forest as a result.

 

In cases where the Trust cannot object outright, it can often secure gains for wildlife by providing advice, however, some building developments which can’t be stopped on wildlife grounds are still unpopular with the public due to the loss of green space. The Wildlife Trust believes that in these cases it is essential that local people engage with the planning process to ensure their views are heard.

 

Mr McDaid, explained: “For us to be taken seriously within the planning system we can’t simply object to all planning applications that we don’t like. We also have to be realistic about the prospects of success when we object to an application, because planners and developers are bound by the legal framework, which sadly is very weak in regard to wildlife protection. However, local people are entitled to object for a variety of reasons, whether due to loss of amenity or a cherished view and we would urge people to make their voice heard.”

 

The Wildlife Trust feels that current planning guidance and legislation is too weak in relation to protection of grassland habitat. Each year, large areas of grasslands designated as being of significant local value, under the Wildlife Sites system as destroyed or damaged due to new developments. Earlier this year Ashfield District Council gave the green light for housing and industrial development on valuable grassland on the Rolls Royce site at Hucknall. Mr McDaid commented: “Each year we see the loss of more and more sites, and we are especially concerned at the rate of loss of valuable wild flower grasslands. Once these sites are lost, they can never be replaced – in many cases the current planning rules do not enable Local Authorities to refuse development - with planners and elected councillors feeling under pressure to allow development due to the perceived economic benefits.”

 

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that wildlife-rich green spaces are vital to people’s health and have a definite economic value. Together with sister Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and other environmental groups, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is currently working to secure a new act to safeguard access to nature for wellbeing. Click here to sign the petition for a Nature and Wellbeing Act.

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