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UK government pledges to protect 30% of UK land for biodiversity boost

Dinah Patel
28/09/2020

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United Kingdom

A commitment to earmark 40,000 hectares by 2030 to reverse the domestic decline in biodiversity is a welcome step from an environmental perspective, but raises questions about how this scheme will interact with recent planning reforms.
 
 
On 28 September, the UK Prime Minister unveiled a commitment to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030 to aid the recovery and diversity of Britain's wildlife.
 
The announcement noted that existing National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other protected areas already comprise approximately 26% of land in England – so the pledge is in fact for the protection an additional 4% – over 400,000 hectares.
 
The government has said it will work with the Devolved Administrations to agree an approach across the UK, and with landowners and civil society to "explore how best to increase the size and value of our protected land".
 
Conservationists and environmental organisations broadly welcomed the move, although many have previously expressed concerns that the government's construction and infrastructure agenda threatens to harm nature by reducing the amount of space for wildlife.
 
Planning lawyers need to see the detail of these proposals to understand how the scheme to protect 30% of the UK's land by 2030 fits with the planning reforms outlined by the government's white paper on 6 August.
 
One of the chief aims of the white paper was to make it easier to obtain planning permission for much-needed housing, services and infrastructure in recognition of the UK's growing population.
 
At present, there is no sign of that pressure on land availability reversing, so the announcement on 28 September could create competing planning arguments.
 
Local authorities and developers must at all costs avoid pushing development onto unsuitable areas of land, such as flood plains; but it is also essential to deliver the development the UK needs in a sustainable way that protects the environment and in doing so preserves the desirability of residential areas.
 
This joined up approach is possible, but requires careful, coordinated planning and decision-making.
 
The white paper identified a need to simplify the 'complexity and bureaucracy' associated with environmental impact assessments in the planning system, but developers need to take account of multiple factors, which are often complex, to deliver the most appropriate, sustainable form of development.
 
For more information on the impact of government planning and land-use reforms on development projects, please contact Fieldfisher planning director Dinah Patel.
 
 

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