Thursday 2 February 2012

Natural England - what are they for?

"Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. We provide practical advice, grounded in science, on how best to safeguard England’s natural wealth for the benefit of everyone."

That's what they say about themselves and consequently they're used by the planners as "expert advisors" when considering planning applications.  Here's a recent response to a planning application (I've formatted the response to make it easier to read):-

The lack of further comment from Natural England should not be interpreted as a statement that there are no impacts on the natural environment. [We haven't actually bothered to read it so we've no idea really]

Other bodies and individuals may be able to make comments that will help the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to fully take account of the environmental value of this site in the decision making process. [Whatever made you think asking us might help]

However, we would expect the LPA to assess and consider the possible impacts resulting from this proposal on the following when determining this application: 

Protected Species - If the LPA is aware of, or representations from other parties highlight the possible presence of a protected or Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species on the site, the authority should request survey information from the applicant before determining the application. The Government has provided advice on BAP and protected species and their consideration in the planning system. The following link to some guidance Natural England Standing Advice on our website has been produced to help the authority better understand the impact of this particular development on protected or BAP species should they be identified as an issue at this site and whether following receipt of survey information, the authority should undertake further consultation with Natural England. 

Local wildlife sites - If the proposal site is on or adjacent to a local wildlife site, e.g. Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) or Local Nature Reserve (LNR) the authority should ensure it has sufficient information to fully understand the impact of the proposal on the local wildlife site before it determines the application. 

Biodiversity enhancements - This application may provide opportunities to incorporate features into the design which are beneficial to wildlife, such as the incorporation of roosting opportunities for bats or the installation of bird nest boxes. The authority should consider securing measures to enhance the biodiversity of the site from the applicant, if it is minded to grant permission for this application. This is in accordance with Paragraph 14 of PPS9. 

Additionally, we would draw your attention to Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) which states that 'Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity'. Section 40(3) of the same Act also states that 'conserving biodiversity includes, in relation to a living organism or type of habitat, restoring or enhancing a population or habitat'. 

Should the proposal be amended in a way which significantly affects its impact on the natural environment then, in accordance with Section 4 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, Natural England should be consulted again. [We might read the application next time - probably not though]

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