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Land Use Planning

The Land Use Planning Working Group acts to conserve the natural and historic environment by seeking improvements to the national planning system for the benefit of biodiversity, landscape and people. The Group works to ensure that the reform of the planning regime in England helps to deliver better protection and enhancement of the natural environment as a key component of sustainable development.

Chair: Victoria Bankes Price, Woodland Trust
Head of Policy and Campaigns: Dan Pescod, Link

Update from the group:

A key focus for the Group in 2018 was to draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in July. The Group crafted a detailed response, welcoming some aspects of its content such as recognition of the need to protect ancient woodland.

Link members view the revised NPPF, as a “mixed bag”. The group continues to work to influence the guidance that will accompany the NPPF, to ensure it is implemented in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.

In November 2018 the group had a useful meeting with MHCLG’s Director of Planning to discuss the NPPF guidance. The national impact of planning rules and guidance on matters such as ecological networks and wildlife sites is very substantial and the Group will therefore continue to advocate for strong planning guidance over the coming months.

In October 2018, the Group responded to two Government consultations which sought views on changing the planning rules in order to make it easier to grant planning permission for fracking: Permitted Development and the inclusion of fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.

In its responses, the Group express concern both about the environmental impact of fracking in England (such as an increase in climate change-related emissions) and the potential bypassing of local democracy if the planning rules are changed as proposed.

In November 2018 members of the Group also attended a meeting with Defra and MHCLG officials to learn more about the Government’s plans to protect / enhance biodiversity. The discussions focused on how nature could be enhanced (via an approach known as “net biodiversity gain”). This approach is part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, and comes in the context of the Government’s expectation of mass house-building in the coming years, which presents a serious challenge to our natural environment. The Group gave its views on the matter and subsequently worked with colleagues across Link, and especially in the 25 Year Plan Group, to formulate a detailed response to the consultation.

Also on the subject of large-scale housebuilding, the Group is looking at the implications for nature and landscapes of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, and associated plans to build a million new homes in the area between these two cities.

So far in 2019, the Group has worked hand in glove with Link’s 25 Year Plan Group on biodiversity net gain and conservation covenants (see 25 Year Plan section for more).

The Group is now working on a Link policy position on the 25 Year Plan’s promised “Nature Recovery Networks”; a potentially vital part of forthcoming efforts to reverse the decline in nature and the wider environment.

The Group’s members also responded to Natural England’s two “light touch” reviews of the standard planning advice it provides on landscapes and protected species, and to the Treasury’s review of the aggregates levy.

For further information, contact Dan Pescod, Link’s Head of Policy and Advocacy.

Last updated: 2 September 2019