Planning reforms and protected landscapes A Natural England overview of emerging issues A reminder of the policy context for changes to the planning system The Coalition Government has significantly reformed the planning system and continues to make changes. Two principal drivers: •‘Localism’ which seeks to empower local government and communities •Stimulating economy recovery and growth by delivering major housing and infrastructure projects The result: The most radical reforms to the planning system for many years and understandable concerns about what this means for the natural environment The National Planning Policy Framework •Introduced in March 2012. Replaced c5,000 pages of planning policy guidance •Sets out high level policies with little detail. Local Planning Authorities to determine how policies are interpreted and applied to local circumstances and needs •A presumption in favour of sustainable development •Continues the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty for National Parks, the Broads and AONBs (little change from PPS7). •Emphasis on environmental enhancement •Onus on LPAs to get up to date Local Plans in place 115. Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and AONBs, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. The conservation of wildlife and cultural heritage are important considerations in all these areas and should be given great weight in National Parks and the Broads. The major development ‘test’ (from PPS7) has been retained 116. Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of: •The need for the development, including in terms of national considerations, and the impact of permitting it, or refusing it, upon the local economy; •The cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere outside the designated area, or meeting the need for it in some other way; and •Any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities, and the extent to which that could be moderated. The NPPF’s policies for the wider landscape and the undeveloped coast 17. Planning should take account of the different roles and character of different areas....recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. 58. Local and neighbourhood plans should... be based on stated objectives for the future of the area and an understanding of its defining characteristics. Planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that developments... respond to local character and history, and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation. 109. The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by... protecting and enhancing valued landscapes. 113. LPAs should set criteria based policies against which proposals for any development on or affecting protected wildlife or geodiversity sites or landscape areas can be judged. 114. LPAs should maintain the character of the undeveloped coast, protecting and enhancing its distinctive landscapes, particularly in Heritage Coasts Other key planning reforms The Localism Act • New neighbourhood tier of planning: Neighbourhood Development Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders, Community Right to Build Orders • Natural England is a statutory consultee - will prioritise those plans/orders requiring HRA and SEA and impacting on designated sites and rely on AONB teams to advise on plans in AONBs •Duty to Cooperate •Underpins joint local authority working on cross boundary strategic issues – inc environmental ones. •Helps to compensate for the loss of strategic join-up by regional bodies and plans • Natural England is a “prescribed body” •Opportunities for better joint working in AONBs Growth and Infrastructure Bill – collection of measures to support growth and facilitate the provision of infrastructure, including Superfast Broadband roll out. Provisions may impact on natural environment and AONBs • In order to facilitate the roll out of superfast broadband infrastructure to rural areas, this bill disapplies (until 2018) the SoS ’s duty to have regard to the purposes of National Parks, the Broads and AONBs in relation to conditions and restrictions on electronic communications infrastructure. • Reviews of Minerals Permissions- minerals planning authorities greater discretion over frequency of reviews (currently every 15 years) Government review of planning guidance •Only guidance that is considered essential will be produced by Government, with other guidance left to the planning sector (e.g. developer bodies, RTPI, LGA) •Single web based resource of succinct guidance •Government badged guidance carries greater weight in plan-making and planning decisions •Role and status of sector led guidance? •Natural England responded to recent consultation-supporting Lord Taylor’s recommendations and suggesting areas for new guidance covering natural environment, including key landscape guidance Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) •A new planning regime overseen by the Planning Inspectorate and based on extensive pre-application consultation. •Natural England is a statutory consultee for all NSIPs and has statutory duty to provide environmental information and advice to the applicant and the Planning Inspectorate. •Early lessons - new process is very resource intensive, landscape issues not major factor to date Some current NSIPs will affect protected landscapes: •North West Connections linking new nuclear power station in Cumbria to the National Grid – potential to affect 2 NPs and 4 AONBs. •Offshore wind farms affecting seascapes and views from coastal AONBs •New potash mine and 40km pipeline proposed for NYMNP •Sizewell C – Suffolk Coasts and Heaths •HS2 – going through the Chilterns Natural England engagement in Development Management • Prioritising, guided by level of risk to nat env NSIPs, Growth Initiatives (LEPS, City deals), development plans • Risk based approach to other planning applications • Discretionary Advice Service- charging for pre-application advice •In AONBs, focus on NSIPs and EIA development (in line with operational standard) •Reliance on LPAs and AONB teams for other development in AONBs using - the local knowledge and expertise of their AONB teams; -the policies and guidance in AONB management plans and LCAs; and -robust landscape policies in their Local Plan. Natural England only needs to be consulted when our national perspective and expertise is genuinely needed. Summary •It is still ‘early days’ for the new planning arrangements. The reforms that have happened have still to bed down and further changes continue to be made or proposed • It is not Natural England’s role to make policy but we can advise Defra/DCLG of concerns. We would welcome feedback from AONB teams. If any of the changes are proving detrimental to protected landscapes we need clear evidence from local partners on which to base advice to policy makers in government. •NSIPs are a priority for us and will be a significant call on our landscape and other specialist resources. •As changes to the planning system bed down we want to improve the landscape service we provide to LPAs in relation to development management. That should include rationalising the consultations we are sent and crucially, strengthening the role of AONB partnerships in determining applications. Questions for Discussion • How is the NPPF making a difference? • Are the positive NPPF environmental policies being taken forward? • Is there more Local Plan activity? • Is the Duty to Co-operate being used for strategic environmental issues? • Are AONBs embracing Neighbourhood Plans? • Is more major development being proposed?