Avon Wildlife Trust Response to West of England Joint Spatial Plan Consultation

Wednesday 10th January 2018

Over the next 20 years, the West of England is facing an unprecedented level of development. The region is currently finalising the Joint Spatial Plan, which sets out the need for new housing, where it will be built, and the associated infrastructure required. In total, 110,000 new houses (an increase of more than 20%) are proposed and it is crucial they are located where they will have the least environmental impact.

Avon Wildlife Trust, working in partnership with The Woodland Trust, RSPB and The National Trust, has today submitted a response to the Joint Spatial Plan consultation to express our concern about how nature and wildlife will be affected as a result of the proposed locations of new housing and the associated infrastructure.

The West of England hosts some unique and nationally important wildlife habitats that provide shelter for some of the UK’s most threatened species including Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats. An additional 7,850 new houses are proposed to be built in and around Backwell, Banwell, Nailsea and Churchill in North Somerset – all adjacent to the North Somerset and Mendips Bat Special Area of Conservation (SAC). These areas are legally protected to ensure that Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats can survive and thrive here.

Avon Wildlife Trust is concerned that the Joint Spatial Plan does not provide enough detail about how the delicate mosaic of natural habitats that contribute to the Bat Special Area of Conservation will be fully protected during and after the new development. In partnership with other key conservation NGO’s, we are calling for a more robust assessment of the potential impact of the Joint Spatial Plan’s proposed housing and infrastructure development to ensure the North Somerset and Mendips Bat SAC is protected during the building and for the long term.

In addition, Avon Wildlife Trust and partner NGO’s agree that throughout the Joint Spatial Plan there isn’t sufficient emphasis on how our unique natural environment in the West of England will be properly protected or enhanced as a result of the proposed development. The Joint Spatial Plan includes a commitment to produce a Green Infrastructure Plan for the West of England. The Green Infrastructure Plan will identify the key natural assets across the region and how it is possible to protect and enhance nature and wildlife as fundamental aspects of the development process.

Good access to nature and wildlife on an everyday basis is proven to significantly enhance people’s lives. Regularly getting outside to enjoy good quality green space improves mental health, physical fitness, and overall wellbeing in adults and in children. When nature is designed into development at the start – as a basic need alongside utilities like gas and electricity – it results in healthier and more pleasant places that people actively want to live in and enjoy. Wildlife also benefits, and issues like flooding can be managed or avoided using nature-based solutions.

Avon Wildlife Trust is calling for the vital importance of the Green Infrastructure Plan itself to be recognised fully by making it a Supplementary Planning Document. This will result in it being acted upon and will transform the Joint Spatial Plan into an opportunity to demonstrate how nature-friendly development is not only possible but practical and preferable. The West of England has a huge opportunity to showcase its green credentials. By taking this approach to delivery of the Joint Spatial Plan we can establish ourselves as the leading region for nature-friendly development that benefits people and wildlife, now and for the future.

To see our partnership response letter to the Joint Spatial Plan consultation click here

The Wildlife Trusts have launched 'Homes for people and wildlife - how to build housing in a nature-friendly way' which shows how new developments can be planned in a way that provide people with greener, inspirational homes and communities, which also helps reverse decades of wildlife and habitat decline. You can read the new guidelines here.

To find out more about the Joint Spatial Plan click here