The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) updated February 2019 sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. Section 15 “Conserving and enhancing the natural environment” sets out how planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment. It describes how to protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity.
The NPPF is accompanied and complemented by Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) circular 06/05 on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation. This provides guidance on the application of the law relating to planning and nature conservation within England. Biodiversity is also protected somewhat through Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act of 2006.
In England, rare, notable or endangered species of plant life (flora) and animal life (fauna) are protected under a range of legislation and planning guidance.
A variety of species of wildlife referred to as European Protected Species (EPS) is protected under the Habitat Regulations 2010, which implements EU European Directive 92/43/EEC (known as the Habitats Directive 1992). These include:
- bats (all species)
- great crested newts
Legally, any development affecting these species has to be subjected to three tests under the Habitat Regulations 2010. In order to satisfy these tests, planning applications need to include a survey for the relevant species; and if present a mitigation strategy which satisfactorily demonstrates that the proposal will not be illegal or adversely affect the species.
Other species of fauna, such as slowworms or grass snakes or water voles, and particular species of birds or flora also enjoy varying degrees of protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Countryside & Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000.
Badgers and their setts are protected under separate legislation.
South Gloucestershire contains a network of nature conservation sites which are protected in law (or under planning policy) for their local, national or international importance for wildlife.
The Severn Estuary is internationally important for a range of species and assemblages of waterfowl and a variety of marine and inter-tidal habitats and species. In recognition of this, it is designated as a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation under European Directives. It forms part of a network of sites across Europe known as ‘Natura 2000’ or ‘European’ Sites. Any development affecting the Severn Estuary European Site will be subject to assessment under the Habitat Regulations 2010 as part of determining the application.
South Gloucestershire also contains over 20 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and over 300 ‘Local Sites’. This is a catch-all phrase for sites which have been identified as being locally or regionally important for their:
- species and habitats – Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs)
- geological features – Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS)
Whilst not protected in law, these sites are designated through a partnership of statutory and non-statutory nature conservation bodies and are protected under policy PSP19 of the South Gloucestershire Local Plan.
Some of these sites are also designated as Local Nature Reserves to give people the opportunity to get closer to nature and learn about wildlife.
Where applicable, we expect planning applications to be supported by the relevant ecological surveys to satisfactorily demonstrate that development will not adversely affect local biodiversity. Details on the type of surveys required, their methodology and scope is provided in our planning guidance document Biodiversity and the Planning Process.
Our vision for biodiversity is set out in our the South Gloucestershire Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).