Planning and Development

Planning and Development are crucial activities in our Essex environment. Though wildlife protection is often seen as a barrier to development, the reality revealed by a DEFRA analysis  is that in fact,  a mere 0.5% of projects affected by the Habitats Directive have had problems. These are now being remedied not through the shredding of any red tape at all, but by friendly negotiation, and they were all windfarms.

More often development can create space for nature, and add financial value to projects by doing so.

Planning and Development


The Houses of Parliament produced a "POST Note" in in February 2013 to summarise the position on Planning and Development. This points out that over the last 50 years large areas of important habitats have been destroyed in England, with many remaining areas fragmented and in poor condition. This has resulted in serious declines in a wide range of species and losses from England. Biodiversity has intrinsic value and humans also rely on it for economic resources and well-being. Government considers that economic growth and protecting the natural environment are compatible and aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. It also intends to increase the number, size, quality and connectedness of wildlife sites. England’s current protected sites do not form the coherent ecological network needed to stop net biodiversity loss.

The National Planning Policy Framework streamlines existing policy. It states that “if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided[...], adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused”.   Read POST Note 429

Advice on Statutory requirements

Planning Guidance is set out on the pages of the Planning Portal, see the section on Natural Environment, which includes biodiversity ecosystems and green infrastructure,  and makes clear that there is a statutory basis for planning to seek to minimise impacts on biodiversity and provide net gains in biodiversity where possible

EBP guidance

Planning guidance is constantly changing, so unstable that it is difficult to keep pace, but the EBP guidance "Integrating Biodiversity into Development " (see the link in our index)  retains principles that will always be sound, no matter what the legislative requirements may be.  That document is periodically updated, but please see our separate page on the NPPF which sets out the latest government guidanace, and introduces the concept of Biodiversity Offsetting which will be run in Essex as a DEFRA Pilot Project for 2 years from April 2012 to enable development to offset impacts on biodiversity which are unavoidable and cannot be mitigated.  Why design merely to meet minimum legislation rules, why not design to produce a healthier Living Landscape, where development incorporates biodiversity?

Where the pages within this Planning and Development section have not been fully updated to reflect the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, and in places they still refer to earlier legislation, their biodiversity principles remain sound. We encourage planners and developers to follow them. 

Advice from the TCPA and Wildlife Trusts

A document has been published dated July 2012 by the Town & Country Planning Association and the The Wildlife Trusts,  "Planning for a healthy environment – good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity".

This guidance is designed to offer advice to planning practitioners on how green infrastructure and biodiversity can be enhanced and protected through the planning system. It focuses on the changes brought about by the Localism Act 2011, the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in March 2012. As it states at the outset "Thinking about nature should be the starting point of good planning, and is an essential component of delivering sustainable development".

It draws together and references the wealth of advice and legislation which has been produced in recent years which encourages placing biodiversity at the heart of planning, includes case examples and sets out general principles to be followed.

The guidance can be read and downloaded from http://www.tcpa.org.uk/data/files/TCPA_TWT_GI-Biodiversity-Guide.pdf

Essex County Council Biodiversity Checklist

Essex County Council has produced its own Biodiversity Checklist and advises that this checklist is a requirement for all planning applications to Essex County Council (ECC)
considered a major development as defined by Article 8(7) of The Town and Country
Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995.  Article 8(7) of The Town and
Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 ECC is the determining
planning authority for mineral, waste and Regulation 3 applications.
The assistance of a professional ecologist will be necessary to complete the checklist.
For other applications not defined as a major development, applicants are strongly
encouraged to use the checklist where there may be adverse effects on the natural
environment. It should be noted that applications not considered a major development will
still be reviewed by a planning authority ecologist.
For some developments an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) maybe required. In
these cases this checklist can be used to inform the content of the Ecology Chapter of the
Environment Statement subject to any Scoping Opinion issued by the Planning Authority.

The checklist and a FAQ document can be downloaded from the County Council's Wildlife and Biodiversity webpage, and here is a direct link to the Checklist (555KB PDF). Essex County Council would encourage other Councils in Essex to use this guidance too.

Biodiversity Planning Toolkit

An online guide to biodiversity legislation and best practice is available on the Biodiversity Planning Toolkit website produced by a consortium of organisations led by the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE). See also their very useful page on the Interactive Bat Protocol which sets out the correct decision-making process for Local Planning Authorities when determining planning applications where Bats are involved. 

British Standard BS 42020 - Biodiversity code of practice for planning and development.

The UK commitment to halt overall loss of biodiversity by 2020 in line with the European Biodiversity Strategy and UN Aichi targets, is passed down to local authorities to implement, mainly through planning policy. To assist organizations affected by these commitments, the British Standards Institute has published BS 42020 "Biodiversity in planning and development – Code of practice", which offers a coherent methodology for biodiversity management.

The Standards set out specifications for how biodiversity should be addressed at each stage of the
planning process:

Pre-application

  • design considerations for biodiversity
  • ecological surveys and assessments
  • preparation and content of ecological reports
  • non-technical summaries


Validation and Registration

  • validation and registration
  • obtaining adequate information


Decision-making

  • making decisions based on adequate information
  • professional scrutiny
  • consulting on biodiversity
  • resolving outstanding issues and agreeing and securing outcomes


Determination and Issue of Planning Permission

  • satisfying statutory obligations
  • using planning conditions for biodiversity purposes
  • planning conditions and EPS licences
  • planning obligations
  • other consent regimes


Implementation of Development (Construction)

  • construction Environmental Management Plans
  • risk assessment of damaging operations
  • practical measures to avoid impacts
  • timing and responsible persons
  • the role of an Ecological Clerk of Works
  • protective fencing and barriers


Post Development Management and Monitoring

  • long-term management of habitats etc
  • monitoring and reporting biodiversity outcomes


Details can be found at http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030258704. Although the British Standard full document costs £100, there is a free download to the BSI "Smart guide to biodiversity in planning and development" from that page, or direct at this link which offers a four page introductory guide in PDF format