The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012. It replaced all the previous Planning Policy Statements, including PPS5, as well as various other planning guidance. The NPPF must be taken into account in the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans, and is a material consideration in planning decisions. Planning policies and decisions must reflect and where appropriate promote relevant EU obligations and statutory requirements.
Biodiversity 2020 and the Water Framework Directive are two key national strategies with frameworks for landscape-scale delivery of biodiversity and ecosystems enhancements:
Conservation 21 and Biodiversity 2020
The most recent England biodiversity strategy Conservation 21: Natural England’s conservation strategy for the 21st century was published on 14th October 2016. This strategy sets out Natural England’s thinking about what needs to be done differently and how we need to work with others, to better deliver the ambition for England to be a great place to live, with a healthy natural environment on land and at sea that benefits people and the economy. It post-dates ‘Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’ published on 19 August 2011, and ‘Working with the grain of nature‘ published in October 2002.
The new strategy builds on the Natural Environment White Paper for England – ‘The Natural Choice’, which was published on 7 June 2011, and provides a picture of how England is implementing its international and EU commitments. It sets out the strategic direction for biodiversity policy for the next decade on land and at sea, and builds on the successful work that has gone before. Its mission is to halt overall biodiversity loss, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems, and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people.
The England Biodiversity Group oversees the development and delivery of the England Biodiversity Strategy, and is chaired by Defra. Although differing in details and approach, the four UK countries have published strategies which promote the same principles and address the same global targets: joining-up our approach to biodiversity across sectors; and identifying, valuing and protecting our ‘Natural Capital’ to protect national well-being now and in the future.
A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society. This goal includes targets for public awareness, integrating biodiversity values, improving incentives and sustainable production and use.
B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use. This goal includes targets on habitat loss, sustainable fisheries and land use, pollution, invasive alien species, and ecosystems particularly vulnerable to climate change.
C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. This goal includes targets for protected areas, and for conservation of wild and domesticated species.
D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystems. This goal includes targets for maintaining and restoring ecosystem services, and for benefit- sharing.
E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building. This goal includes targets for national strategies, participation of indigenous and local communities, improving knowledge, technologies, and mobilisation of financial resources.
Water Framework Directive
The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in December 2000 and became part of UK law in December 2003. It provides an opportunity to plan and deliver a better water environment, focussing on ecology.
Successful implementation of the WFD will help protect all elements of the water cycle. It provides an opportunity to plan and deliver a better water environment through river basin management planning, and help protect and enhance the quality of surface freshwater (including lakes, streams and rivers), groundwaters, groundwater dependant ecosystems, estuaries and coastal waters out to one mile from low-water.
It looks at the ecological health of surface water bodies (good status being defined as a slight variation from undisturbed natural conditions), as well as achieving traditional chemical standards. In particular it will help deal with diffuse pollution which remains a big issue following improvements to most point source discharges. The Rivers in Oxfordshire have a low to moderate risk of general diffuse pollution, but the risk from nitrate is high. Virtually the whole of the county has been designated as a nitrate vulnerable zone (an area of land that is at risk of pollution from nitrates).
The Environment Agency is the lead authority in England for:
- improvements on inland and coastal waters through better land management
- protecting inland and coastal waters from diffuse pollution in urban and rural areas
- driving wiser, sustainable use of water as a natural resource
- creating better habitat for wildlife that lives in and around water
- creating a better quality of life for everyone
The Habitats and Birds Directives and the Water Framework Directive
Conservation sites identified under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive (with water-related features) will be designated as ‘protected areas’ under the Water Framework Directive.
For more information on WFD visit the Environment Agency’s website.