New planning proposals will fail people & nature

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust responds to Government White Paper

Earlier this week the Government announced the publication of a White Paper, Planning for the Future. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that there are fundamental flaws in the current planning system because it has allowed huge declines in the natural world – and fears the proposed reforms will make a bad situation much worse.

Paul Wilkinson, Chief Executive at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust says:

We live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The Government’s White Paper proposes a new planning system with three categories of land – with areas earmarked for either growth, renewal and protection. This radical simplification risks creating an even more disconnected landscape, where wildlife will continue to decline because nature does not slot into neatly defined boxes. Protecting isolated fragments of land is not enough to help wildlife recover and it won’t bring nature into people’s everyday lives - something we now know is vital for our health and wellbeing.
Paul Wilkinson, CEO
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust cares for over 3,000 acres of nature reserves and advises dozens of landowners on how many thousands more are managed. Across the UK The Wildlife Trusts care for 250,000 acres across 2,300 nature reserves and advise on the care of a further half a million acres. Together the Wildlife Trusts improve vast areas for nature – as well as protecting thousands of acres through influencing planning decisions each year. In Nottinghamshire the Trust scrutinises planning applications and decisions across the county and works to ensure that the needs of wildlife and the people who care about it are given a voice. We review and respond to key planning consultations and provide advice, support and training to local planning departments and work with developers to create habitats for wildlife and make developments more attractive for residents. Paul continues:

“Most wildlife is found outside existing protected areas – making reversing wildlife decline a priority and time is running out to make this happen. It is critical that government weaves nature into the heart of every development, old and new. Parks, green spaces and all the areas around our homes must be part of a wild network of nature-rich areas to benefit bees and birds whilst enabling people to connect with wildlife on their doorstep daily. The proposed system threatens the prospects for nature’s recovery and would mean that the people with the least access to nature and greenspace become even more disadvantaged. We would urge people not to ignore these proposed changes as they have the potential to impact on the quality of all our lives.”

Weaving nature into all areas, not restricting it to isolated pockets of land is essential if we are to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises as well as provide homes that people want to live in surrounded by beautiful, buzzing green spaces.

Wildlife does not stick to defined spaces and most wildlife survives outside protected areas and thrives on some brownfield sites that it would like to see developed. If we are to have any prospect of restoring nature, we must have connectivity across our landscape, including our towns and cities. New growth and renewal areas must benefit wildlife too.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that the Government must ensure that every department heeds its own proposed Environment Bill and 25 Year Environment Plan, and integrates a Nature Recovery Network through all future development. The charity is also calling for Local authorities to be far better resourced with access to high-quality ecological data, so that they can spatially plan where and how new development happens.

The Wildlife Trusts believe the ability of local people to have their say must not be reduced – instead, it is important that the voice of local communities is heard louder than ever so that affordable housing can be surrounded by wild spaces, clean air and healthier surroundings to realise the government ambition for “higher regard on quality and design than ever before."*

The Wildlife Trusts work with national and local government, businesses and local communities to influence planning and development to achieve better outcomes for wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts respond to around 6,500 planning applications per year, and tens of thousands more are vetted and checked for impacts on wildlife.

Nature-rich housing developments, designed with environmental sensitivity and green infrastructure at their heart, can provide people with easy access to nature where they live and work and deliver multiple social, environmental and economic benefits.

 

*Robert Jenrick, Housing Minister, writing in the Telegraph 1st August 2020.

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