The GLNP feel that it is important for all stakeholders to be involved in the planning process, as such we are keen to work closely with Local Authorities and communities to prepare local policy which achieves mutual benefits for nature and society while meeting the multiple objectives required by national policy and legislation.
Below are the key points that we feel should be considered in the development of your Neighbourhood Plan. This advice is based on the joint values and positions as agreed by our members.
Development must be done in a sustainable way. Paragraph 7 of the NPPF states that the purpose of the planning system is to “contribute to the achievement of sustainable development”. This includes an environmental objective which requires planning to “protect and enhance our natural, built and historic environment; including making effective use of land, improving biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy” (NPPF, Paragraph 8c).
Biodiversity and Geodiversity
Biodiversity losses in Greater Lincolnshire have been huge and still continue. It is important that this is reversed, therefore development should not only avoid harming the existing natural environment, but also contribute to net gains in biodiversity.
Existing valuable sites and species must be protected and seen as part of an ecological network. Therefore, the impacts beyond the development must be considered, along with identifying opportunities for enhancement including by connecting sites and habitats.
Geodiversity is the variety of rocks, minerals, soils and landscapes together with natural processes which form them. Our geodiversity provides resources needed to sustain our way of life. The value of this is not well recognised within the planning system currently. The particular geodiversity resources of Greater Lincolnshire need to be recognised, protected and enhanced.
Paragraph 174d of the NPPF calls for plans to protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity by “…minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures;” while paragraph 175 states that Plans should “…take a strategic approach to maintaining and enhancing networks of habitats and green infrastructure; and plan for the enhancement of natural capital at a catchment or landscape scale across local authority boundaries.”
Paragraph 179 of the NPPF calls for plans to protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity and that they 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.”
Policy EN2 of the South Kesteven Local Plan states that the “conservation, enhancement and promotion of the District’s biodiversity and geological interest of the natural environment” should be facilitated “in partnership with all relevant stakeholders”. It goes on to state that “This includes seeking to enhance ecological networks and seeking to deliver a net gain on all proposals, where possible.”
Neighbourhood plans should reflect national and local policy regarding the protection and enhancement of the natural environment including net gains for biodiversity, the enhancement of ecological networks and protection of Geodiversity.
It is important that the planning system recognises the concept of natural capital and the wider benefits that the natural environment has for society. These multiple benefits can be delivered by integrating biodiverse green infrastructure into both existing and new development. Green infrastructure could:
Paragraph 20d of the NPPF states that strategic policies should make sufficient provision for “conservation and enhancement of the natural… environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure” while paragraph 34 requires plans to “set out the contributions expected from development” including “infrastructure (such as that needed for education, health, transport, flood and water management, green and digital infrastructure).”
Furthermore, paragraph 92c makes it clear that, along with other community services, planning policies should “aim to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places which enable and support healthy lifestyles…through the provision of safe and accessible green infrastructure…”
Policy EN3 of the South Kesteven Local Plan states that the District Council “will maintain and improve the green infrastructure network in the District by enhancing, creating and managing green space within and around settlements that are well connected to each other and the wider countryside.” It goes on to state that development proposals should “ensure that existing and new green infrastructure is considered and integrated into the scheme design, taking opportunities to enrich biodiversity habitats, enable greater connectivity and provide sustainable access for all” and that “Proposals that cause loss or harm to this network will not be permitted unless the need for and benefits of the development demonstrably outweigh any adverse impacts.”
Neighbourhood plans should recognise the importance of green infrastructure and the multiple benefits it provides for society, it should reflect national and local policy. Green infrastructure strategy should seek to help planning meet mutual objectives for nature and society.
The effects of climate change are already being felt and are likely to become worse. The protection, enhancement and management of the natural environment is a crucial part adapting to these effects. Healthy ecological networks rich with biodiverse habitats are also important for climate change mitigation, absorbing greenhouse gasses and offsetting any carbon that cannot be reduced. This is a key aspect of meeting national and local net zero targets by 2050.
Paragraph 8c of the NPPF states that the environmental objective for sustainable development includes “mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy” while paragraph 20d calls for strategic policies to make sufficient provision for and planning measures to “address climate change mitigation and adaptation”. Paragraph 153 goes into more detail highlighting the requirement for Plans to “take a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change, taking into account the long-term implications for flood risk, coastal change, water supply, biodiversity and landscapes, and the risk of overheating from rising temperatures” it goes on to state that policies should “support appropriate measures to ensure the future resilience of communities and infrastructure to climate change impacts”.
Objective 13 of the South Kesteven Local Plan highlights a commitment “to plan for and reduce the impacts of climate change by ensuring that new development is not exposed unnecessarily to the risk of flooding nor increases the risk of flooding elsewhere and that opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure (including trees and woodland) and adaptation for wildlife as a response to increases in flood risk are properly investigated.”
Neighbourhood plans should recognise the role of the natural environment in fulfilling requirements for the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. This should include both relevant opportunities for offsetting emissions and the use of green infrastructure to reduce the impacts of climate change. The susceptibility to the effects of climate change of any habitats used must be considered to ensure long term effectiveness.
Data and evidence
Credible data is central to ensuring effective local planning and policy making. Supporting data for your Neighbourhood Plan is available by contacting the GLNP at firstname.lastname@example.org.