Proposals to significantly change the planning and regulatory systems are currently under consideration; however, any new approach in respect of ecology is unlikely to be resolved quickly.
The publication of a Communities and Local Government Committee report detailing consultation responses to the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (House of Commons, 21 December 2011) suggests that, whilst the principle of the draft NPPF is supported, there is much work to do to on the content. The committee report states: ‘The Government has set great store by the brevity and simplicity of the NPPF, but in its current form the draft NPPF does not necessarily achieve clarity by virtue of its brevity…The significant gaps in planning policy and guidance could lead to a huge expansion in the size of Local Plans as local authorities attempt to plug the gap.’
As the details of the Law Commission review of UK wildlife legislation emerge, further uncertainty could be added for planning applicants between now and the completion of the review in 2014. The ODPM Circular 06/2005 remains valid for the time being regarding the statutory obligations for biodiversity and their impact within the planning system and this Circular will no doubt continue to be used by local planning authorities as the NPPF comes into use. However, as the changes to The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 also emerge it is possible that this circular may be superseded. In time, therefore, we may see changes in both policy and statute; our current main pieces of wildlife legislation may even be wrapped up into a single all-encompassing piece of legislation.
BSG is keeping a close eye on all these proposed changes. Please contact us if you would like to discuss what it could mean for your projects.