Launching a draft planning policy statement on biodiversity and geological conservation (PPS9), Planning Minister Keith Hill said the planning system had an important role to play in protecting our natural heritage and delivering sustainable development.

“Areas of biodiversity are precious assets for the local community. We must make sure the planning system contributes to a sense of place by protecting or incorporating these sites. The planning statement I am launching today sets out how this should be done.”

Mr Hill added that planning authorities would be assisted by a circular accompanying the statement, providing guidance on implementation of the law as it affects biodiversity and geological conservation.

In addition, two other planning policy statements, PPS11 and PPS12, on regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks, were launched to provide policy and guidance critical to the production of spatial plans that will improve quality of life, help deliver community aspirations and promote sustainable development.

Minister Hill said: “Both PPSs will greatly assist regional and local planning authorities in ensuring partnership working and community involvement so that their plans are in tune with regional and local aspirations. This whole new system is all about involving people in planning and I’m pleased these new PPSs will help achieve that.”

PPS11 will operate at a regional level, while PPS12 is designed to operate at a local level, getting communities involved in making the decisions that affect their environment.

However, Friends of the Earth have criticised the new planning systems, saying they give new legal powers to unaccountable regional planning bodies. FoE planning advisor, Hugh Ellis said:

“Allowing regional planning bodies to draw up strategic policy on issues such as roads and business plans without giving members of the public the right to raise concerns will further undermine confidence in the whole planning system. The Government says it wants to encourage people to participate in regional plans, but only a legally enforceable right to be heard will guarantee that the voice of local communities will not be ignored in the rush for major new developments.”

By David Hopkins

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