Environmental consideration must be at the heart of planning reforms
The Woodland Trust's calls for the Government to protect threatened woodlands as part of the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.
James Cooper, Woodland Trust Head of Government Affairs said:
“The stated purpose of the Government’s Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill is to ‘support the Government’s ambition to deliver one million new homes, whilst protecting those areas that we value most including the Green Belt’.
This Bill presents a great opportunity for the Government to prove that it really does want to be the greenest Government ever. Too often, infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2 have been allowed to take shape, with environmental considerations only coming to the fore after organisations and local communities point out how safeguarding – let alone enhancing - the environment has been an afterthought at best. If Government really does want to ‘transform the way we plan for major infrastructure projects in this country’ then environmental considerations need to be at the heart of any planning reforms.
‘Protecting areas that we most value’ is, on the face of it, a very welcome aspiration. However if local communities are to welcome development, and not suffer from NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) or indeed BANANAism (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) then Government needs to recognise that infrastructure and development provisions must show greater respect for the natural environment as opposed to enabling its bulldozing as swiftly as possible.
This means respecting the valued local woods that have often shaped the identity of an area and, where development takes place, incorporating well-designed green spaces and tree planting, recognising that everyone has a right to beauty. It means communities rightly being able to demand that new developments in their community increase their opportunities to access nature close to where they live. An increasing body of evidence shows that this will serve to enhance public health at the same time.
As with all Bills, the devil will be in the detail, but we will be working hard to ensure that the rush to build houses and infrastructure more quickly does not ride roughshod over the needs of the natural environment and people’s desire to experience it.”