An invitation to shape the nature of England – natural environment white paper (2011)
The Government issued the white paper, The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, in June 2011. It sets out ways in which the Government, local communities and businesses should put the value of nature at the heart of decision-making, and explains why we must value the economic and social benefits of a healthy natural environment.
Paragraphs 2.33 to 2.42 relate to biodiversity in the planning system. The White Paper reaffirms the need for the planning system to protect and enhance the natural environment, as well as delivering sustainable development. The White Paper states that the Government will “retain protection and improvement of the natural environment as core objectives for local planning and development management” and that the Government wants the planning system to help it achieve no net loss of biodiversity. However, it calls for a more integrated, more strategic, more flexible and less bureaucratic system, with greater input from local communities. The Government has now set out in more detail how this will be achieved in the National Planning Policy Framework.
Significantly, the White Paper also makes a commitment to trialling biodiversity offsetting in selected pilot areas. Biodiversity offsetting is a process which seeks to compensate for biodiversity losses on a development site by undertaking habitat creation, expansion or restoration elsewhere. In reality, biodiversity offsetting has been taking place for some time, but normally by the developer on land immediately adjoining the development site, very often as a result of a requirement for species translocation. However, the white paper builds on this concept and points towards a more strategic approach, with offsets better integrated into existing ecological networks and the pooling of resources from multiple development sites. If the trials are successful, then the White Paper suggests that the Government may support greater use of biodiversity offsets in the future.
The government has issued eight updates, the first in October 2011, on its progress on the Natural Environment White Paper. The latest (October, 2014) suggests that three quarters of the commitments set out in the White Paper have been completed; although it acknowledges that many of these are initial steps towards long term ambitions.