Last week the Government published its White Paper on the Natural Environment entitled “The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature”.  It confirms the Government’s commitment to securing a sustainable future for us by ensuring the natural environment is protected and improved – apparently this is going to be achieved, in part, through reforms of the planning system.

The White Paper ties in nicely with the Government’s localist agenda stating that there will need to be a “strategic and integrated approach to planning for nature” at the local level. We are also told that the National Planning Policy Framework, which will go out to public consultation later this summer, will set out the Government’s environmental objectives for the planning system and will provide communities with the tools they need to achieve an improved and healthy natural environment as part of sustainable growth. Another interesting proposal within the White Paper which makes use of the planning system, is the proposal to ensure that where biodiversity is lost by development, that loss is offset by habitat expansion or restoration elsewhere.

Despite the ‘green’ manifestations in the White Paper, there is little true detail about how these environmental objectives will be achieved. In a sense, the paper lacks any “teeth” yet seems confident about being able to manage the natural environment without telling us how this can be achieved. For example, the proposed biodiversity offsetting scheme almost seems to neglect the fluidity of natural ecosystems by suggesting that an ecosystem can be balanced and maintained simply by replacing ‘lost biodiversity’ at one development site with a habitat expansion elsewhere.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this White Paper, we’d be delighted to hear from you!