Back in March I blogged  about the launch of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and gave our initial views.  Two months later, following detailed analysis, expert judgement and legal opinion, we’re much clearer about our views and we are getting ready to submit our response by the deadline (10th May). 

Our initial judgements were pretty accurate; there are many things to welcome but we also have significant concerns with the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, the implications of the new approach to housing delivery for wildlife and the changed approach to plan-making. The overall balance of the Draft Framework is tipped further in favour of housing.  This is understandable given the importance of housing to this Government and to people personally, who struggle to own or rent a home.  However, we also see continued biodiversity declines and recognise that urbanisation is one of the key drivers behind this.  This imbalance needs to be addressed when the final NPPF is published. 

A key concern for us is the loss of an existing national policy (paragraph 113) which requires planning authorities to set more detailed local policies against which development proposals on or affecting protected wildlife sites will be judged. This ensures plans have policies which distinguish between the hierarchy of wildlife sites (i.e. those of international, national and local importance) and gives appropriate weight to their importance, including the contribution they make to ecological networks. 

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan seeks to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site network and to develop a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife, and provide opportunities to re-introduce species. Sites of local importance for wildlife (including Local Wildlife Sites) have a key role to play in supporting and delivering these commitments.  It’s worrying that both the new presumption policy and other changes in the draft NPPF (such as the withdrawal of paragraph 113) have diminished protection for these sites. 

Our detailed response will propose a number of changes to the draft NPPF, including changes to the presumption policy and reinstating paragraph 113, to make sure that every special place for nature – including places with future potential for nature – gets the protection they deserve through the planning system.

The Wildlife Trusts have launched an online petition to respond to the diminished protection for Local Wildlife Sites in the Draft NPPF. You can add your voice at this link.  You have until the 10th May to do so.

We will blog again in the coming days when we make our formal submission to the consultation.

Meanwhile, there is still time to express your views if you care about the future of special places in England. Do have a look at the consultation and respond.