New National Planning Policy Framework (England)

The long anticipated revision to the National Planning Policy Framework applicable in England has today (24th July) been published, here.

This replaces the 2012 Framework. The planning practice guidance to support the framework is also published online (here).

The Press Release is here.

The viability guidance is also updated – here.

25-yr Environment Plan (UK)

The UK issued a few moments ago, its long awaited 25-yr Environment Plan. The Plan is here.

I will update this post on the Blog here with the Plan key commitments, targets and schedules. Please note, the updates will not be sent as emails to your inbox (the original post is emailed). So make a note, to check back on the Blog post itself.

UPDATE

Pledges :

(1) eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042,

(2) remove exceptions in England plastic bag regulations [the latest amendment to the EU Packaging and Packing Waste Directive stipulates measures on plastic bags by end 2018, plus the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy is announced next week – I will write a separate Blog post about it],

(2)(a) consultation in a charge for single-use plastic containers,

(3) protect ancient woodland and plant more trees, a new Tree Champion to be appointed after the National Planning Policy Framework is updated,

(4) retain strong targets for wildlife, water and air,

(5) “polluter pays” and “public money for public goods” as guiding principles for future farming policy (plus subsidy reform from 2024 (2022-2024 consultation) – this may be set out in the forthcoming Brexit Agriculture Bill),

(6) sustainable drainage to make cities safer from floods – new planning guidelines,

(7) healthcare that takes advantage of green prescriptions – preventative care that can make the most of “natural health service”,

(8) nature integrated in urban communities – net nature gain in new developments (possibly via the revamp of the National Planning Policy Framework,

(9) a new Watchdog to hold government to account – a new environment body to replace the activities of the EU’s Commission and Courts (this was an earlier DEFRA announcement – see recent Blog posts – the next step is consultation),

(10) nature targets (little detail),

(11) “leave the environment in a better state than they found it”, “the goals of our 25 year environment plan are simple: clean air, clean and plentiful water, plants and animals which are thriving, and a cleaner, greener country for us all. A better world for each of us to live in and a better future for the next generation.”,

(12) a miscellany of other pledges with little attached detail.

Note : the objectives in the plan itself add relatively little to the European and international commitments the UK is already signed up to.

But : the UK is meant to achieve good ecological status for all water bodies by the mid 2020s under the EU Water Framework Directive. The commitment in this 25-yr plan to achieve good water quality “as soon as practicable” is a lesser target.

Also : there is no mention of implementation of the forthcoming EU Circular Economy amendments to six existing Waste Directives.

Plus : there is no mention of the EU “precautionary principle’, particularly relevant to chemicals.

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) EU Regulation (update)

My post in 2013 on EU IAS is here.

16th April (today), the European Parliament is voting on the IAS Regulation. Progress is followed here.

In Scotland – The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 made a number of significant amendments to the provisions on invasive non-native species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in Scotland.

– First, the 2011 Act amended section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as it applies in Scotland, so as to make it an offence to release an animal, or allow one to escape from captivity, to a place outside its native range or where the animal is of a type specified by the Scottish Ministers. It is also an offence to cause any animal outside the control of any person to be at a place outside its native range. There is a similar offence in relation to plants grown in the wild.

– The 2011 Act also introduced species control orders, a mechanism by which invasive species present on premises or land can be controlled with a view to preventing their spread into the wider environment.

The model adopted in Scotland comprises four basic stages:
(1) Investigation: the provisions allow the relevant body to enter land or premises for the purpose of investigating whether a species outside its native range is present on the relevant land or premises;
(2) Species control agreements (made between the relevant body and the owner or occupier of land or premises on which invasive non-native species are present) provide for operations to be carried out to control or eradicate invasive non-native species;
(3) Species control orders: if a species control agreement is not agreed or not carried out, the relevant body can make a species control order, specifying operations to control or eradicate invasive non-native species to be carried out on the premises or land in question;
(4) If the species control order is not complied with, the relevant body can itself carry out the operations – or arrange for them to be carried out.

In England and Wales – the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to release, or allow to escape into the wild any animal which:
(1) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
(2) is included in part 1 of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It is also an offence to plant or cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in part 2 of schedule 9 to the 1981 Act. But there is no wider prohibition of planting or causing to grow plants not ordinarily resident in Great Britain. It is a defence to prove that all reasonable steps were taken and due diligence exercised in attempting to avoid the commission of one of the above offences. Activities otherwise prohibited can be permitted under a licence. The sale of species covered by the above provisions can additionally be restricted by order.

There are also other laws which regulate import of non-native species.

The species control regime in Scotland allows for operations to control or eradicate an invasive animal, plant or fungus present on land or premises, excluding dwellings. The procedure is built principally around two elements: species control agreements and species control orders.

These sophisticated mechanisms are not available in England and Wales, and this matter is being looked into by the UK Law Commission. It’s recent report (issued 11th February 2014) is here.

Biological Offsetting (England) – Update

I posted in September about DEFRA consultation – my post is here.

Consultation is now closed. Current information is found here.

The results of DEFRA analysis of public feedback will be posted here.

Biodiversity offsets are conservation activities that are designed to give biodiversity benefits to compensate for losses – ensuring that when a development damages nature (and this damage cannot be avoided) new, bigger or better nature sites will be created. They are different from other types of ecological compensation as they need to show measurable outcomes that are sustained over time.

Statements made at the House of Commons Debates – 9th January 2014 – are as follows:

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op):
The Minister will know that this year is the 150th anniversary of the death of one of our greatest poets of the countryside, John Clare. He wrote a great deal about diseased trees—there was a plague of oak disease in his lifetime—and he was certainly a great defender of the English countryside. What does the Minister think John Clare would have thought of giving up our ancient woodland and replacing it with new growth?

Dan Rogerson:
I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing a cultural dimension to our proceedings so early this morning. I share his concern, and that of John Clare, for ancient woodland, and that is why the guidance is very clear. In any discussions about development, the guidance we offer to all local authorities is very clear that ancient woodland should be protected.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab):
I want to press the Minister on the issue of protecting our ancient woodlands. Today’s written ministerial statement talks about planting lots of new trees, but does he accept that that is no replacement for the destruction of ancient trees? The quantity of new trees will not be a substitute for the diversity and quality of such woodland.

Dan Rogerson:
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to point out that, given the maturity of such ecosystems, ancient woodland has a whole range of things that new planting cannot hope to replicate. That is why the planning guidance is absolutely clear that the hierarchy should protect ancient woodland.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab):
Will the Secretary of State clarify how the remarks he made on allowing ancient woodland to be lost to development meet the spirit of his Department’s forestry policy statement which states categorically:“Protection of our trees, woods and forests, especially our ancient woodland, is our top priority”?

Mr Paterson:
I am absolutely delighted to be able to reassure the hon. Lady and the hon. Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) that the idea that biodiversity offsetting could be used as a means of imposing unwanted houses on ancient woodland is an absolute travesty. It is absolutely clear: all along we have always said that should we bring in offsetting—I made this clear to the all-party group—all the current protections of the planning regime and all the mitigation hierarchy remain. Only at the very last moment could offsetting be considered, and we have always said that some assets will be too precious to offset and—[Interruption.] Exactly, and that might well be ancient woodland.

The hon. Lady should look at examples of offsetting in countries like Australia, where there has been an 80% shift of planning applications away from fragile environments. Used properly, therefore, biodiversity offsetting could be a tremendous tool to protect those ancient woodlands which she and I value. As someone who has planted an arboretum over recent years, the idea that I am going to trash ancient woodlands is an absolute outrage to me personally.”

Invasive Alien Species EU Regulation

Proposal for new European Regulation on Invasive Alien Species (IAS) is today announced.

Remember once enacted, the EU Regulation will directly apply within all Member States (enactment of national implementing law is not required, although there may well be national law enacted eg relating to offences).

Here is the European Commission Press Release.

Here is the European Commission’s webpage giving further detail, access to the proposed Regulation in the different languages, and the background documents.

Here is the proposed EU Regulation.

Q&A is set out in the European Commission’s Memo on the topic.