The Revised NPPF: Implications for Biodiversity.

The revised National Planning Framework (NPPF) was published on 24 July 2018. This finalises the document following the consultation draft of March 2018. A range of updates have taken place in respect of biodiversity matters. Do contact Aspect Ecology for further advice as to the implications of the changes. The main headlines and alterations from the March consultation draft are as follows:

  • Para 8c – ‘Helping to improve biodiversity’ remains a key ‘environmental objective’;

  • ‘Irreplaceable habitats’ are confirmed as a restricted policy in footnote 6;

  • Para 170d) – Planning policies are directed towards ‘minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity’;

  • Para 174b) – ‘measurable net gains for biodiversity’ are referred to potentially opening the way for biodiversity offsetting to enter the mainstream;

  • Para 175 c) – In the March draft ‘aged and veteran trees’ were treated separately to ancient woodland with the NPPF:2012 test (needs and benefits to outweigh the loss) retained. However, under the final July 2018 drafting aged ancient and veteran trees are now included with ancient woodland as irreplaceable habitats and so are subject to the ‘wholly exceptional’ test. This is a high bar which is otherwise only reserved for effects on assets of the highest significance such as scheduled ancient monuments. This effectively provides policy protection for ancient woodland in excess of that provided for SSSIs. Given that most ancient woodlands are not of SSSI quality this could create difficulties. Moreover, ancient woodland is often included in the inventory which has not been fully evidenced as ancient i.e. continuously wooded since 1600. It is for this reason that all inventory entries are provisional. Do speak to Aspect Ecology as to how a woodland can be further tested to ascertain or disprove ancientness;

  • The definition of ‘ancient or veteran trees’ has been updated in the glossary;

  • The definition of ‘irreplaceable habitats’ has been updated to match up with the changes to para 175c;

  • The term ‘Habitats Site’ has been adopted to include all Natura 2000 sites (SACs and SPAs) covered by the Conservations of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known at the Habitats Regulations) and is defined in the glossary;

  • A new definition is included in place of ‘Nature Improvement Areas’ which was included in the March draft, namely: Nature Recovery Network: An expanding, increasingly connected, network of wildlife-rich habitats supporting species recovery, alongside wider benefits such as carbon capture, water quality improvements, natural flood risk management and recreation. It includes the existing network of protected sites and other wildlife rich habitats as well as and landscape or catchment scale recovery areas where there is coordinated action for species and habitats