Government’s planning reforms must address the nature and climate crisis

Ben Hall/2020VISION

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust challenges rhetoric on need to speed up development

Public urged to rewild planning system by responding to consultation

New analysis of the Government’s White Paper, Planning for the Future, has revealed that, as they currently stand, the proposed reforms will increase the threat to nature in England and do little to create better homes and communities for wildlife and people.

Based on their analysis, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to commit to five principles to be applied to future planning which would ensure the reforms can address the climate and ecological crises and people’s need for nature around them. One of these principles would, for the first time, protect new land put into nature’s recovery. Paul Wilkinson, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, says:

“We’re in a climate and ecological crisis and we cannot afford to lose any more wildlife – we need a new Project Speed for nature.

"We must keep the environmental protections that we have – but even that is not enough. The rhetoric justifying these reforms suggested that local consultation and surveys needed to deliver good decisions and protect wildlife are causing unnecessary delays to housing and other development – we dispute this and believe that protections must be strengthened.

“The Government needs to take a big step towards ensuring nature can recover everywhere.  The algorithm-based system proposed in these reforms relies on data that simply doesn’t exist and dispenses with vital local knowledge about wildlife and planning need. We fear it’s a system that will fail nature and fail people.”

“Evidence shows that healthy communities need nature and the government must map out a Nature Recovery Network across every one of their proposed zones, whether it’s a growth, renewal or protected area. The Wildlife Trusts are proposing five principles to ensure the planning system helps nature and we want to see a bold new designation which will protect new land that’s put into recovery - we’re calling this Wildbelt.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ five principles are:

1. Wildlife recovery and people’s easy access to nature must be put at the heart of planning reform by mapping a Nature Recovery Network

2. Nature protection policies and standards must not be weakened, and assessment of environmental impact must take place before development is permitted

3. People and local stakeholders must be able to engage with the planning system

4. Address the ecological and climate crises by protecting new land put into recovery by creating a new designation – Wildbelt

5. Decisions must be based on up-to-date and accurate nature data

Ben Hall / 2020VISION

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet and the government has committed to reversing wildlife declines. A successful planning system is crucial to securing the recovery of nature and creating healthy communities with natural green space on people’s doorsteps, no matter how dense the housing. However, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which monitors thousands of planning applications each year and provides wildlife expertise to local authorities believe the new Government proposals will make a bad situation worse.

“We recognise that the planning system isn’t perfect and welcome reform, but these reforms are not the answer. The Government is pushing forward changes under the pretext of unnecessary delays to development due to local consultation, but across Nottinghamshire permissions have been granted for thousands of homes to be built – with permissions granted for around 1 million homes across the UK that are yet to be built.  We need developers to build more quickly where they already have permission, not the loss of yet more land and a weakening of local scrutiny.”

The Trust fears that the new system with arbitrary nationally set housing targets could increase housing allocations across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire rise by almost 40% without meeting local need for affordable housing.

“The past few months have illustrated just how much people value local greenspace and access to nature is essential to maintaining wellbeing. We know that people fear a build, build, build strategy will lead to the loss of wild green spaces when the Government’s focus should be on delivering a greener recover and protecting, restoring and reconnecting habitat and greenspace.”  

Nottinghamshire Trust will be responding to the Government consultation and are urging the public to rewild the planning system by responding too at wtru.st/do-not-fail-wildlife. The deadline is 29th October 2020.

Our initial analysis of the Planning White Paper is here.

As the Planning White Paper proposals stand, The Wildlife Trusts’ key concerns are:

· Failure to address the climate, ecological and health emergencies together

· The new zones will not reverse nature’s decline nor integrate it into people’s lives

· Inadequate nature data means that planners will make poor decisions about zones

· The bias will be towards permitting new developments

· Simplifying Environmental Impact Assessments will weaken environmental protections

· Undermining the democratic process by reducing people’s opportunity to influence the planning process

Nature-friendly developments would not happen under the proposed reforms

Have your say

We all need to see a wilder future. You can respond to the consultation using our form; please add your own views too!

Help us demand more

 Ben Hall/2020VISION