In the face of growing street protests and alarming news reports about global species decline, what can planning authorities do to address the biodiversity crisis? Our new RTPI Practice Advice Note aims to help…
The most recent ‘ State of Nature’ report shows that, despite clear warnings and commitments to local and national action, trends in the natural world are looking worse than the last review in 2016, with one in seven species threatened with extinction in Great Britain. This decline is linked to various factors, including intensive agriculture which involves habitat loss, reduction in soil quality and heavy use of fertilisers and pesticides. Pollution, from over-consumption and the production of waste, is harming many species and habitats. Rapid urbanisation is fragmenting habitats and degrading the natural environment. Climate change is also affecting biodiversity with extreme weather events and changes in the pattern of seasons affecting wildlife behaviour and forcing some species to seek more habitable climates. In addition, non-native invasive species, such as the Canada Goose, Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed, are out-competing native species or spreading disease.
The RTPI is one of 19 conservation, planning and development organisations involved in the ‘Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning’, a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, seeking to promote the importance of biodiversity in planning and development. The partners argue that, through better planning and development humanity can both benefit from and live more harmoniously with nature. A new RTPI Practice Advice Note on ‘Biodiversity in Planning ’ has been produced by the partnership to highlight some of the key areas that local planning authorities (LPAs) throughout the UK can focus on to fulfil their statutory Biodiversity duty.
“Investing positively in biodiversity can deliver multiple benefits, promoting resilience to climate change, health and wellbeing, as well as enhancing natural systems and wildlife”
The practice advice note provides an overview of the main obligations and opportunities for planners to promote biodiversity through the four UK planning systems. It aims to equip readers with a solid foundation of knowledge about the main challenges and opportunities relating to biodiversity and provide links to the current national statutory duties and guidance that should be addressed through planning. It offers practical pointers to support the integration of biodiversity into local policy, practice and individual development schemes through a series of good practice examples.
LPAs can work to protect and enhance biodiversity in a number of ways:
- Adopting an integrated strategic planning approach to biodiversity in local plans and local nature recovery networks;
- Promoting biodiverse developments through planning conditions and obligations
- Managing local government public assets to enhance biodiversity;
- Collaborative working with other LPAs, public bodies and local stakeholders;
- Embedding biodiversity evaluation and monitoring;
- Establishing robust financial and long-term management arrangements.
The paper highlights a range of good practice that is already happening throughout the country. Much of this good practice involves collaboration across LPA boundaries and multiple actors. For example, the Mersey Forest Partnership, involves seven LPAs, local business and public agencies in a range of projects, including ten local ‘Friends of the Woodlands’ groups who care for their local woods and have planted over 9 million trees since the beginning of the project in the early 1990s.
Current trends suggest that we need to be doing much more and on a greater scale than ever before to protect and enhance biodiversity, let alone help recover species and habitats back to sustainable levels. This joint publication seeks to outline core requirements and give examples about what is possible, and help to stimulate even further local action.