Wales propose an ‘Ecosystem approach’ to assessing impact on natural resources #NPPF

Showing yet again how the Welsh Government is 5 years ahead of the English they today published a green paper Sustaining a Living Wales.

It proposes changes to the governance and delivery of the management and regulation of the environment in Wales, based on the ecosystem approach.

The consultation document defined the ecosystem approach as

A strategy for the integrated management of  land, water and living resources that promotes nature conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way recognising that humans with their cultural diversity are an integral part of ecosystems. The ecosystem approach provides a framework within which the relationship of protected areas to the wider landscape and seascape can be understood and the goods and services flowing from ecosystems can be valued.

The ecosystem approach requires managing our environment as an integrated system where decisions on one element impact on the performance of the whole and affect the benefits that the environment can provide to society. The ecosystem approach is especially vital in a complex and changing environment where climate change, as well as our direct physical demands on the environment, will result in increasing and changing pressures, risks and opportunities….

The services we receive from the environment include supporting services such as ecological processes, soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling, which underpin the operation of the system as a whole; provisioning services such as food, water and wood; regulating services which help us to control climate, floods, waste disposal, air and water quality; and cultural services which include recreational, educational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits we receive from the environment.

From Spring 2012 they propose to pilot

ecosystem based local resource management planning by exploring how we might bring together the range of existing plans and designations into more unified plans or processes and identifying potential barriers or opportunities


We propose to explore the scope for a single spatial framework for natural resource planning in Wales, bringing together this existing work, resolving conflicting aims and identifying opportunities for improved outcomes by linking common aims more clearly…

Countries such as The Netherlands have a long track record of this form of national
resource planning and we will draw on international experience in considering how
best to take forward our approach.

It describes the current arrangements for the planning of natural resources as:

a complex one which can be difficult to navigate and administer coherently. This complexity makes it difficult to link different issues to reflect the essential connectedness of the environment and so the present system is unlikely to be fully effective in delivering resilience of the environment as whole

A priority for integration will be the water sector.

A new Welsh Single Body will bring together the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales and the Wales functions of the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

On the relationship to land-use planning

Difficulties can arise when both land use and environmental consents are required or where no planning permission is required but there are impacts on the natural environment. We propose to look at the boundaries of environmental systems and land use planning to make sure that decisions are taken coherently and by the most appropriate part of the system. The aim would be to simplify and to make sure necessary controls are effective.

In the longer term we will consider the relationship between environmental regulation and planning decisions and how these could either work better together or where a decision might better be taken primarily by one or other system.

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