Small but Mighty Changes in the Revised National Planning Policy Framework – Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment

1st November 2018

Chapter 15 of the NPPF which looks at conserving and enhancing the natural environment is not dissimilar to the previous chapter in the NPPF, but the revised raises its profile requiring a more proactive approach to the topic. There are some new additions to this chapter which are worth noting and are set out below, but generally, the content of this chapter has remained the same.

The first new additions are in paragraph 170 which expand on the previous points that were in paragraph 109 of the old NPPF. The new additions include recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, and the wider benefits from natural capital and ecosystem services; maintaining the character of the undeveloped coast, while improving public access to it where appropriate; and encouraging development to improve local conditions such as air and water quality.

It remains that great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty in National parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection. The new NPPF now identifies that the scale and extent of development within these designated areas should be limited. Following this, a new paragraph relating to the Heritage Coast and major development within this has been added. It states that major development is unlikely to be appropriate unless it is compatible with its special character.

Biodiversity and geodiversity (also includes pollution -air, noise and light) now have separate sub-sections. The principles in relation to conserving and enhancing biodiversity are largely unchanged. However, there is now a far greater emphasis on development being made acceptable by providing ecological compensation measures and net gains in biodiversity.

Worth noting is, paragraph 117, which was previously paragraph 119, setting out that presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where development will require an appropriate assessment because of its potential impact on habitats, is still present in the NPPF.

There is s greater emphasis given to veteran trees and ancient woodland. These trees are now effectively afforded the highest protection possible putting them on a par with our best-built heritage. Applications for sites where such trees are present will therefore need to be adequetley front-loaded with protection and mitigation measures (paragraph 175 c).

Paragraph 179 of the new NPPF clarifies that the responsibility of securing a site for development affected by contamination or land stability issues falls with the developer and/or landowner.

The new NPPF still requires the consideration of noise impacts from new development, but now also includes the consideration of impacts from light pollution and artificial light on local amenity, intrinsically dark land spaces and nature conservation (paragraph 180 c).

An emphasis is now placed on identifying opportunities to improve air quality and mitigate impacts of individual sites, in an effort to contribute towards compliance with relevant limit values or national objectives for pollutants (paragraph 181).

Paragraph 182 of the new NPPF emodies the ‘agent of change’ principle and requires new development to inegrate with existing business and community facilities, with specific mention of existing development not being subject to unreasonable restrictions being put on them due to new development. This gives existing premises/facilities which generate a level of noise (e.g music venues and sports clubs) a level of protection against future development having an impact on their operations. It put the responsibility on the applicant to provide suitable mitigation before the development has been completed.

To find out more or how this affects your planning applications, please contact us on 01256 766673.

Written by Associate, Mike Cole.

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