Planning policy issues

Avon GorgeImage: Nick Bertrand

Current Priorities

Local Plans

The Core Strategies for Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) and North Somerset have been revised. BANESs Core Strategy has been approved, whilst North Somerset Council have consulted on the relevant policy changes and both are proposing higher housing numbers than originally proposed:

  • BANESs - 12,960
  • North Somerset - 20,895

South Gloucestershire Council has produced a Sites and Policies Plan which allocates specific sites across the area and the Trust has commented on this to ensure it has a positive impact on biodiversity.
 

Renewable Energy Policy

We are aware there are an increasing number of planning applications for renewable energy schemes such as solar farms and wind turbines. We believe that climate change represents a serious long-term threat to global biodiversity and measures to reduce its causes are to be encouraged. The UK's future energy policy must focus on the urgent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases, and we strongly support moves to increase energy efficiency and supply more of our energy needs from renewable energy sources.

However, we believe that development of any form of energy, renewable or otherwise, should not compromise long-term nature conservation objectives, i.e. that they should be planned, sited, designed, installed, managed and decommissioned in such a way that they do not harm habitats or species protected at international, national, regional or local levels.

We will assess applications on the following grounds:

  • Biodiversity
  • The public's access to wildlife
  • Ecosystem functions

The Trust supports renewable energy schemes where they deliver a positive biodiversity gain and reserves the right to object to developments that are not appropriate.

National Grid Hinkley Point C Connection

National Grid has submitted its application to the Secretary of State and the Trust has made a representation to its proposals. Copies of the application documents can be viewed online and are accessible through the Planning Inspectorate's website.

For further information see: hinkleyconnection.co.uk.

Neighbourhood Development Plans

The government has introduced Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) through the Localism Act (2011). NDPs are written by a parish/town council or by residents in a particular community to establish planning policies about the use of land in their neighbourhood. This ensures that the community can contribute to how the area they live in will evolve in the future. The current system relies on producing a NDP which is consulted on before being adopted. The NDP has to conform with the Local Planning Authority's (LPAs) Core Strategy and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Your LPA's Core Strategy can be found on your local council's website.


NDPs and Biodiversity Planning

The Localism Act provides communities with the opportunity to make influential decisions about an area's future, including development/redevelopment whilst potentially enhancing the protection of areas that benefit the community (e.g. Local Green Spaces (LGS), Green Infrastructure (GI)).

To begin the process the local authority will designate districts within their area as Neighbourhood Planning Areas (NPAs); once these are established the parish/town councils or Neighbourhood Planning Forums in an urban area such as Bristol which has set up a number of Neighbourhood Planning Forums (NPF) which are set up to create a Neighbourhood Development Plan for their area. It must be noted that a NDP must conform to the Local Plan set out for the area. NDPs will guide and heavily influence the location of development/redevelopment and the conditions surrounding that development. When concerning biodiversity and the natural environment the benefits can restore, enhance and protect vital habitats and wildlife by protecting or designating areas as LGS or by creating wildlife corridors and GI both within and connected to the wider area. 

If a community is concerned about development threat to a habitat or green space, residents now have the opportunity to protect that space formally or to create new ecological corridors in areas of development via NDPs. It is crucial to incorporate planning for biodiversity in development from the early stages as it will not only enhance wildlife prospects in the future and support biodiversity, it will improve the quality of living for your community when coping with essential development/redevelopment in your area. 

For more general information visit: Neighbourhood Planning Information, Neighbourhood Planning Regulations (2012), Neighbourhood Planning Guidance.


Neighbourhood Development Planning Information in the Avon Area

Bath and North East Somerset

North Somerset

South Gloucestershire

Bristol

For greater detail than provided in this brief summary; more information, assistance and links can be found in the Trust's Neighbourhood Development Plan advisory note on the incorporation of the natural environment, biodiversity and wildlife into Neighbourhood Development Plans.
 

Local Green Space (LGS) Designations

The Trust has received a number of enquiries concerning Local Green Space and the environment. This summary provides a short overview about LGS designation, how land is designated and what to consider when lobbying for LGS in your area.

What is LGS?

Local communities have the ability to select and promote LGS, a concept introduced via the Localism Act (2011) and outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). LGS designation will formally protect spaces which the community deem valuable to the local area. In addition to being local in character a site must adhere to certain criteria to be suitable for designation as an LGS by having one or more of these attributes, the site must be:

  • Wildlife rich and diverse with wide-ranging biodiversity,
  • Of considerable beauty,
  • Historic importance, 
  • An area of recreational value, 
  • Considered a space which provides tranquillity to the community. 

LGS designations give the local community an opportunity to formally protect areas which are not currently protected by law or legislation. The NPPF paragraphs 77 to 79 introduce LGS protection. Policies within the local development plan and Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for managing development within a LGS must be consistent with the policies protecting Green Belt within the NPPF which states that new development is ruled out in these areas other than in special circumstances.  


How are LGSs Designated?

A LGS can only be designated if a plan (Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) or Local Plan) is being approved or in the stages of construction. The areas chosen for designation should be local and be of particular significance to the community. For local people to have an input they need to lobby the local authority to designate LGS and argue the suitability of a site sufficiently based on the sites significance to the community. To designate land is a matter of local discretion where LGS designations cannot be of significant size or encompass large extents of land which could circulate villages or towns. LGS should not be a way of protecting large extents of Green Belt land that dramatically restrict future development. Additionally, land can be considered for designation even if there is no public access but the site will have to fall into another criteria to ensure its designation is appropriate.
It must be remembered when considering LGS that this is not a substitute for Green Infrastructure (GI) consideration and incorporation into development plans within an area. Correct procedure dictates that GI and biodiversity considerations are a vital part of future development proposals alongside LGS designations.
 

Further Information

The Wildlife Trusts - Good Practice Guidance for Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity
The Wildlife Trusts - Local Wildlife Sites
Open Space Society - Local Green Space Designation
English Heritage - Local Green Space
 

Planning Applications

We objected to the North Fringe to Hengrove Package Bus Rapid Transit planning application, submitted to Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils (our consultation response is available to download below). The application was determined over the summer by both Councils and the application has approved. The Trust is considering its position currently.

 

Downloads

FilenameFile size
North Fringe to Hengrove Package Metrobus Objection May 2014.pdf293.15 KB
Neighbourhood Development Plan Brief Nov 14.pdf408.97 KB