On the 25th July 2011 the draft National Planning Policy Framework was published by Government. After the release of the Natural Environment White Paper in June this year conservation organisations have been highly anticipating the publication of the Framework, which represents the next step in terms of implementing the declarations of the White Paper.
The document, which integrates the Government’s economic, environmental and social planning policies for England, was issued alongside a statement from the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, who said “It will give local communities the power to protect green spaces that mean so much to them, while still giving the highest protection to our treasured landscapes such as national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It will also ensure that development needed to grow the economy is carried out in a sustainable way.”
The Government’s objective as stated in the Framework is that planning should help to deliver a healthy natural environment for the benefit of everyone and safe places which promote wellbeing. To achieve this objective, the document states that the planning system should aim to conserve and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting valued landscapes, minimise impacts on biodiversity and provide net gains where possible. The report also makes the statement that planning permission should be refused if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided, adequately mitigated, or as a last resort, compensated for.
The Framework goes on to support the Lawton Review and the White Paper with its goals to minimise impacts on biodiversity by stating that planning policy should take into account the need to plan for biodiversity at a landscape-scale as well as identify and map components of the local ecological networks, including international, national and local sites. In line with EU targets the Framework states that planning will promote the preservation, restoration and re-creation of priority habitats, ecological networks and the recovery of priority species populations.
In terms of climate change the Government’s objective is that planning should fully support the transition to a low carbon economy in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. To achieve this objective, the planning system should aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings, deliver renewable and low-carbon energy infrastructure and provide resilience to impacts arising from climate change.