Following the Government’s proposal to introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, environmental charities are calling on the Government to honour its original commitment to ‘protect previously developed or brownfield land that is of high environmental value for wildlife’. To help Government fulfil this commitment - originally set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - Link has published guidelines to determine ‘high environmental value’. The definition will make it easier for local authorities and developers to appropriately prioritise brownfield sites for development while honouring the Government’s commitment to protect wildlife.
Brownfield land includes places such as abandoned industrial sites, former railway sidings and extraction pits. Most brownfield land can be beneficially redeveloped in order to reduce the need to build on greenfield land in the countryside. However, a small but important number of sites are hugely valuable for both people and wildlife: it is often the only greenspace available to communities within urban environments and can provide havens for wildlife, including rare species like the Shrill carder bee, Black redstart or Great crested newt.
While the NPPF commits to protecting brownfield land of high environmental value, it fails to define it. As a result, wildlife is continuing to suffer. We have now provided guidelines to clarify the process for everyone. After all, it is important that brownfield sites of high environmental value are properly considered in the planning process. This guidance will give ecologists, planners, developers and land managers the information they need to make good planning decisions.
Link recommends that 'Land of High Environmental Value' is defined as: "land containing priority habitat(s) listed under section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006; land holding a nature conservation designation such as ‘site of special scientific interest’; land that has been selected as a local wildlife site; or land containing a protected species."
Some brownfield land is being used, by wildlife, to replace habitats that have suffered dramatic losses in recent years, such as wildflower grasslands and heathland. In fact, two of the five most wildlife rich sites in the UK are brownfield.
One of these sites, Canvey Wick, is a former oil refinery which was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its rare invertebrates and is home to species which were believed to be extinct in the UK.
Membership of Wildlife and Countryside Link is open to national and international voluntary or other non-profit organisations based in England. Member organisations must be able to demonstrate an interest in furthering the work of Link, and their aims must include the protection of wildlife, landscape and the quiet enjoyment and appreciation of the countryside. Individual members of the public are not eligible to join Link, but may be interested in joining one of Link's member organisations.