In the face of alarming reports about global species decline, what can planning authorities do to address the biodiversity crisis?
A new practice advice note from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), produced with the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, highlights key areas on which UK local planning authorities can focus to fulfil their statutory biodiversity duty.
The advice note gives an overview of the obligations and opportunities for planners to promote biodiversity through the four UK planning systems. It offers practical pointers toward integrating biodiversity into local policy, practice and individual developments.
Investing proactively in biodiversity can deliver multiple benefits, promoting resilience to climate change, health and wellbeing, local economies, as well as enhancing natural ecosystems and wildlife.
The advice note highlights a range of good practice already happening throughout the country. Much of this good practice involves collaboration across local authority boundaries and multiple actors. For example, the Mersey Forest Partnership involves seven planning authorities, local business and public agencies in a range of projects. This includes 10 ‘Friends of the Woodlands’ groups who care for their local woods and have planted more than nine million trees since the project began in the early 1990s.
The advice note also refers to a free online tool for smaller developers – the Wildlife Assessment Check – designed to help identify protected and priority species and statutory designated sites that might be affected by a proposed development.
The tool aims to smooth out the planning application process for developers and planning authorities, by helping improve the quality of applications in relation to biodiversity requirements.
Trends suggest we need to be doing much more, and on a greater scale, to protect and enhance our natural world. This joint publication seeks to outline ways that planning can work more harmoniously with nature and stimulate greater local action.