National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #49 Biodiversity

This compares the NPPF draft to PPS9 (2005) and to some extent to the never completed, and never to be completed most likely PPS10 (2010) which would have replaced it.

There is no overall objective for biodoversity. In particular this para from PPS9 is missing (the equivalent in PPS10 is no real improvement).

to conserve, enhance and restore the diversity of England’s wildlife and geology by sustaining, and where possible improving, the quality and extent of natural habitat and geological and geomorphological sites; the natural physical processes on which they depend; and the populations of naturally occurring species which they support.

The requirement to take account of the need to plan for biodiversity at a landscape-scale across local planning authority boundaries is new and welcome.

Comparing the key two policy tests.

development proposals where the primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be permitted; Development proposals where the principal objective is to conserve or enhancebiodiversity and geological conservation interests should be permitted.
if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated against, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused; The aim of planning decisions should be to prevent harm to biodiversity and geological conservation interests. Where granting planning permission would result in significant harm to those interests, local planning authorities will need to be satisfied that the development cannot reasonably be located on any alternative sites that would result in less or no harm. In the absence of any such alternatives, local planning authorities should ensure that, before planning permission is granted,adequate mitigation measures are put in place. Where a planning decision would result in significant harm to biodiversity and geological interests which cannot be prevented or adequately mitigated against, appropriate compensation measures should be sought. If that significant harm cannot be prevented, adequately mitigated against, or compensated for, then planning permission should be refused.

This is a neat bit of editing, though shorter the meaning is the same (the meaning of the draft PPS10 was essentially the same).

Geodiversity seems to have dropped off the Radar.

Previously it has generally been held that local policies on priority species were unecessary as it was contained in National Policy & RSS.  The draft appears to change this requiring local policies on priority species.  This may be in order to meet international obligations with the abolition of RSS.

The phrase “making clear distinctions between the hierarchy of international, national, regional and locally designated sites;” has gone, confusing as it could be read as treating all sites equally. ‘Same protection as European sites…’  What protection this isn’t clearly spelt out.

There is a change giving sites identified as compensation for European and proposed sites the same protection as these sites. This surely is to comply with the Habitats Directive. Welcome change.

Biodiversity enahncement within a development is no longer something that can be required, only encouraged. A big step backwards.

‘Other important habitats’ becomes ‘irreplacable habitats’   – no mention of the CROW act duties and the importance of protecting section 74 habitats.   Again a big step backwards, needs to be put back in.

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