National Planning Policy Framework

National Planning Policy Framework, 2018 was published on 24 July and we provided a summary back on 01 August. There are material changes within the revision to how planning policy, in England, will now influence a wider sustainable development target and help achieve biodiversity net gain. As a summary of the changes and how they may influence planning applications in England, we have reviewed the new document and can report on our preliminary understanding of the changes and their implications.

Wildwood Ecology already provides our clients and customers with a robust argument in support of sustainable development and biodiversity net gain, but the revised NPPF seeks to strengthen the requirements to achieve this gain and provide a more consistent approach.

For example, in the revised edition there is a strong reiteration of ‘helping to improve biodiversity’ (para 8c), towards ‘minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity’ (para 170d) and achieving ‘measurable net gains for biodiversity’ (para 174b).

These measurables, it is suggested, are set at the local level to achieve targeted biodiversity net gain and should seek to compliment local biodiversity action plans, where they exist. Each local planning authority could therefore, in theory at least, develop their own metric-based approach to ‘measure’ net gain. This local approach could lead to a greater divergence between local planning authorities in what they would each consider as ‘sufficient’ biodiversity net gain. Naturally, this may lead to continuing frustration for some of our clients and customers who may favour a more consistent approach between local planning authorities.

In practice and over time there is likely to be a consensus, across regions at the least, on fewer or even a single metric-based approach to measuring biodiversity net gain. Works have already begun on developing a standard by Defra and Natural England, but it is far from clear how these will be implemented.

Conclusion: at the very least there will be a strong requirement, across all local planning authorities in England, to demonstrate biodiversity net gain to truly achieve sustainable development. However, consistency across local planning authorities in England on how biodiversity net-gain is measured is yet to be determined.