Planning applications

All building works will change the natural environment and there is either the risk of a negative impact or the opportunity to make a positive difference. In all cases the planning authority has to consider biodiversity when assessing a planning application. For the planning authority to make this assessment they may require certain information, such as surveys. This information in turn may lead to conditions on the development.

The information on these pages is given to help find a way through this sometimes confusing process. It will be useful to planning authorities, developers and their agents and others interested in planning applications in their area.

The planning authority has various legal duties and policy commitment to fulfil around biodiversity.

Legal duties:

  • 'Biodiversity duty' contained in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. This requires all public bodies to consider biodiversity in exercising their functions. There is specific guidance for local authorities on implementing this duty.
  • National and international biodiversity legislation such as designated sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Special Areas for Conservation for example).
  • Protected species legislation – some species are wholly protected, some partially and some species are protected at certain times of year.

Policy commitment:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework (2012, updated 2019) gives overall guidance to planning authorities on how development should take place including the principle of sustainable development, no net loss of biodiversity and achieving net gains for nature.
  • Local plans are written by each planning authority and describe how development will take place in that area. They must contain policies on biodiversity and these should be in keeping with the National Planning Policy Framework.

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