RSPB welcomes new Government planning guidance

THE GOVERNMENT has listened to public concerns over planning reforms and has announced plans which will allow for growth while protecting wildlife, a leading charity says.

The RSPB has welcomed the unveiling of new planning guidance yesterday [March 27] which addresses the concerns raised by the public and environmental groups.

The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) contains a definition of sustainable development which will ensure local authorities can plan for vital homes, jobs and transport links without causing damage to our wildlife and countryside.

Steve Gilbert, RSPB conservation programme manager in the south east said: “It is clear ministers have listened to our concerns and taken them on board. We have always supported the idea of simplifying the planning system to make it less cumbersome and bureaucratic – but this must not happen at the expense of our environment. A healthy environment is essential for a healthy economy and the planning system is there to ensure the needs of people, business and nature are all met. Across Sussex we have some stunning countryside and protected habitats that genuinely benefit wildlife and people. This new planning system will help the Government deliver on its promises to promote growth, halt the loss of biodiversity and enhance our natural environment.”

The RSPB’s concerns that protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (such as parts of the Pevensey Levels and the Ashdown Forest) was set to be weakened in the original draft of the NPPF appear to have been allayed.

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “Today’s news is a victory for wildlife, a victory for people and a victory for sustainable economic growth. Let’s hope that after all these bruising debates ministers now have a better understanding of just how important the environment is to the people of this country. It is now vital that local authorities across the UK have up to date local plans in place to ensure that the reforms unveiled today work effectively on the ground protecting the environment whilst allowing responsible development to go ahead.”