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Some protection reinstated for at-risk Local Wildlife Sites

Friday 27th July 2018

Wokefield Common in Berkshire by Katie Smith

The Government has published a revised version of its National Planning Policy Framework which now includes some reinstated protection for Local Wildlife Sites following a campaign supported by 25,000 people.

The National Planning Policy Framework guides thousands of planning decisions every year - from a new 5,000 home estate, a business park or two houses at the end of your road. Local Wildlife Sites are some of our most valuable wildlife areas. They are identified and selected locally using scientifically-determined criteria and surveys [following Defra’s guidance]. The only type of protection that Local Wildlife Sites have is through national planning policy.

More than 25,000 people supported The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign to call for protection for Local Wildlife Sites which were omitted from the previous version of the National Planning Policy Framework, published in April. Thank you to all our members who supported this campaign.

We called for the framework to include Local Wildlife Sites in a list of types of sites on which development would be restricted. We also asked that Local Wildlife Sites should be identified and mapped as part of a network of wildlife-rich habitats. Finally, we wanted the framework to require local councils to protect Local Wildlife Sites from harm.

The good news is that Local Wildlife Sites have been reinstated in the document released today. The all-important new wording says that local councils will need to identify, map and safeguard components of the local ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity. Locally designated sites, as it explains in the glossary, means Local Wildlife Sites.

The bad news is that the wording doesn’t go quite as far as we would like – we would have preferred an explicit recommendation against development of these sites. We will work with the government to ensure that the guidance that accompanies the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear to everyone how Local Wildlife Sites should be safeguarded.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE Chief Executive The Wildlife Trusts says:

"We are relieved that some protection for Local Wildlife Sites is now to be given again under English planning rules. Taking away protection for these beautiful places, as originally proposed, would have been a disaster for wildlife. This is why thousands of people backed our call for protection to be reinstated. Today the Government has published a revised version of its National Planning Policy Framework which does require Local Authorities to 'identify, map and safeguard' these vital places rich in wildlife.

"Now the future of these wonderfully wildlife-rich pockets of England is brighter but they will remain under pressure from built development. The true test of this commitment will come as Local Authorities implement the Framework. This will be the test of the political commitment there is to wildlife locally and nationally and The Wildlife Trusts and our friends will be watching. Protection for Local Wildlife Sites is fundamental to securing nature’s recovery.”

You can read more about Local Wildlife Sites at www.wildlifetrusts.org/local-wildlife-sites

The Wildlife Trusts are reviewing the implications of the rest of the revised NPPF for our environment and wildlife.