The NPPF (2019) provides the basis on which planning decisions are currently made. The aspects which cover Biodiversity leave much to be desired and appear to be aspirational and indeterminate rather than offering a solid foundation for LPA Ecologists to work with, making the imposition of BNG difficult and often disputed by Developers, Consultant Ecologists and on occasion their own Planning Officers.
The NPPF (2019) wording is included below - Habitats and biodiversity
174. To protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity, plans should:
a) Identify, map and safeguard components of local wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity; wildlife corridors and stepping-stones that connect them; and areas identified by national and local partnerships for habitat management, enhancement, restoration or creation; and
b) promote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species; and identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity.
175. When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:
a) if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts) adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused;
b) development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and which is likely to have an adverse effect on it (either individually or in combination with other developments), should not normally be permitted. The only exception is where the benefits of the development in the location proposed clearly outweigh both its likely impact on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest, and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists; and
d) development whose primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be supported; while opportunities to incorporate biodiversity improvements in and around developments should be encouraged, especially where this can secure measurable net gains for biodiversity
The Environment Bill (2020) lays down far clearer requirements. This will remove subjective judgement, strengthen the hand of LPA Ecologists and in principle at least, standardise requirements and level the playing field.
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