Andy Gale – Planning reforms and protected landscapes

Planning reforms and protected
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
•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
•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.
•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?

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