Eco-planning guide to help preserve habitats

An official guide to putting eco-friendly planning laws into practice was published on Friday, with the aim of helping planners protect England's ecosystems and landscapes from the negative impacts of new developments.

The guide, aimed at all those involved in the planning process, complements last August’s legislation on habitat-sensitive planning, Planning Policy Statement 9, (see related story).

Planning minister Baroness Kay Andrews said when launching the guide: “Whilst we need to provide new homes and expand communities, we must also ensure precious habitats such as ancient woodlands, heaths and rivers are not lost.”

“Through our new planning policy, we have already stepped up the protection of such habitats. This new guide offers advice to local authorities on how to put this policy into practice on the ground.”

The guide, published jointly by the ODPM, Defra and English Nature, is available on the ODPM website. It sets out to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of preserving biological and geological diversity in three steps: information, implementation and enforcement.

Access to information about the location and characteristics of England’s most valuable habitats should be improved through web-based sources, fuller use of GIS, and identifying further research needed.

When it comes to implementing the laws, the guide prescribes more cooperation between authorities and local communities.

One example given is Marston Vale community forest, where the active involvement of the local community ensures the sustainability of significant housing expansion.

Other examples of best practice include South Oxfordshire Council, which requires all planning applications to take into account impacts on wildlife – specifically bats, badgers, birds, ponds, amphibians, trees and hedgerows.

The East Midlands, on the other hand, has scored points by paying attention to areas of passage for migrating wildlife species in the planning process.

Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight said the new publication will be “an invaluable guide to everyone involved in the planning process on how to ensure that biodiversity is considered and priority habitats are recognised when planning decisions are made.

“It will help everyone involved in land use planning maintain a strong focus on biodiversity and geological conservation.”

Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, which the guide complements, is available on the ODPM website.

by Goska Romanowicz

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