Help us respond to the Government’s proposals for a major overhaul of the planning system and protect threatened wildlife in Sheffield and Rotherham.
New analysis by The Wildlife Trusts of the Government’s White Paper, Planning for the Future, has revealed that, as they currently stand, the proposed reforms could increase the threat to nature in England and do little to create better homes and communities for wildlife and people.
Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust is alarmed by the Government’s proposals. The White Paper proposes a planning system with three categories of land, earmarked for growth, renewal and protection – but this simplification brings the risk of creating a disconnected landscape, one in which wildlife continues to decline because nature doesn’t only live in particular zones. We want to see wildlife throughout Sheffield and Rotherham, including where people live and work, bringing multiple benefits for people with it.
We are also very concerned about the lack of up-to-date ecological data to inform the new plans. The Government is proposing that decisions will be made solely on existing species and habitat data for proposed development sites, with no opportunity to include current survey data in response to planning applications. This presents a very real risk that protected species and precious habitats could be lost.
The proposals would also limit local people’s opportunity to speak out about developments, as consultation would only happen at the advanced Local Authority-wide plan making stage. We know from experience (see our Planning Issues page to find out more about our planning work) that local knowledge and democracy are vital in protecting and enhancing wildlife in the planning system. We also know that people are often only aware of a threat when an application is made in their local area – not in the concept stage, which may be many years in advance.
Dr Nicky Rivers, Living Landscape Development Manager says:
“Here in Sheffield and Rotherham, as in the rest of England, we are facing an ecological crisis. The planning system is not perfect and there is scope for improvements, but we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to build on the current protections for wildlife, by adding more opportunities for wildlife to flourish and move by creating new nature recovery networks. Ecology needs to be woven through all parts of Sheffield and Rotherham, including where people live and work, not confined to one zone. This consultation presents an opportunity for the system to improve, but the current proposals do not offer that. We ask you to respond to the consultation as we will be doing to ask the Government to do more for nature”.
The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to commit to five principles to be applied to future planning which would ensure the reforms can address the climate and ecological crises and people’s need for nature around them. One of these principles would, for the first time, protect new land put into nature’s recovery. For this, The Wildlife Trusts propose a new protection mechanism called Wildbelt.
The Wildlife Trusts’ five principles are:
- Wildlife recovery and people’s easy access to nature must be put at the heart of planning reform by mapping a Nature Recovery Network
- Nature protection policies and standards must not be weakened, and assessment of environmental impact must take place before development is permitted
- Address the ecological and climate crises by protecting new land put into recovery by creating a new designation – Wildbelt
- People and local stakeholders must be able to engage with the planning system
- Decisions must be based on up-to-date and accurate nature data
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet and the Government has committed to reversing wildlife declines. A successful planning system is crucial to securing the recovery of nature and creating healthy communities with natural green space on people’s doorsteps, no matter how dense the housing. However, The Wildlife Trusts, who respond to thousands of planning applications every year and are taking part in the White Paper consultation, believe the new Government proposals will make a bad situation worse.
Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust will be responding to the Government consultation and we are urging the public to help us ensure that measures for nature’s recovery are included in the planning system.
Please respond to the proposals via the following link:
The deadline for responses is Thursday 29th October 2020.