Penfold Review of non-Planning Consents (2010) and the Government Responses (2010, 11 & 13) (England)
The Penfold Review was established to explore whether the process for obtaining non-planning consents is hindering business and whether there is scope to improve such processes and working practices. The review included consideration of protected species licences. The review highlighted the issue of poor quality applications made by developers in respect of applications for European protected species licences, resulting in large numbers of re-submissions and acknowledged that, to deal with this issue, Natural England is improving its guidance and minimising the consequences of re-submission.
One of the additional actions recommended by Penfold is to review “the operation of species licensing to assess whether it is appropriate to reduce or remove duplication in the respective roles of the planning authorities and Natural England by enabling the former to determine the ‘over-riding public interest’ and ‘no satisfactory alternative’ tests and the latter to focus on the ‘favourable conservation test’”. There are 12 other recommendation topics which may also apply, in a generic way, to the protected species licensing system. Following the Penfold Review, the government has issued its response (2010), then a progress update (2011), then an implementation report (2011) which sets out the actions to be taken by government, and most recently an implementation progress update (2013).
The actions include changes to the licensing regime for protected species in England. These are the expansion of the class licensing system and the introduction of organisational licences. The class licence system allows registered individuals to undertake certain licensable activities without the need to apply for consent each time. The organisational licence applies the same approach to major infrastructure organisations, utilities and other public bodies for their routine operations.
Other actions for Natural England include considering a system of accredited ecological consultants (which they have deferred to the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)), providing guidance on protected species disturbance offences, and introducing a charged-for pre-submission application screening system for protected species licences (which is now in place). The Government also committed to ensuring that Natural England has a remit to promote sustainable development.