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  • by Trevor Loveday

Environmental coalition presses for planning reform

A coalition of environmental groups has called on political parties seeking power in the coming General Election to “reform the planning system to prioritise renewable energy and nature-restoration” where, it has warned, the current planning system “does a poor job”.

In a joint statement paper last week, the Wildlife and Countryside Link representing 30 environmental activist organisations called for:

  • an ambitious and well-funded habitat-restoration and creation prospectus alongside any proposed planning reform;

  • strategic spatial planning on land and sea, prioritising nature and renewable energy;

  • more investment in environmental planning, including local ecological expertise; and

  • frontloading nature and climate in development design.

The group asserted “At the moment, the planning system does a poor job of making space for environmental considerations. As a result, space for nature and climate is “squeezed”, leaving environmental considerations as an afterthought in the planning process. This can result in delays and environmental harm.”

It insisted that: “Very significant natural infrastructure development (restoration and creation of habitats) will be necessary for the UK to create a resilient and healthy economy, restore our waterways, and to meet the Environment Act target to halt the decline of species abundance by 2030”.

Signatories to the statement included the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, Richard Benwell, said space for more renewable energy and nature can be created together, “but not if we continue to depend on a system that treats nature as an afterthought or an obstacle.”

According to chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, Craig Bennett: “The big issues of climate, nature, health, housing and pollution can be addressed through concerted attention and action. It’s about integrating nature into all our decision-making, rather than simply seeing it as a bolt-on or afterthought.”

Policy director at Greenpeace UK, Doug Parr, said: “The next government should take a much more proactive approach to strategic planning to avoid a series of protracted and soul-destroying site battles to get new green infrastructure built.”


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