26 Jul 2019

Preliminary observations on new Planning Practice Guidance for the  Natural Environment

This reflective piece looks primarily at the green infrastructure and net gain components of the recently released NPPG for the natural environment and should NOT be seen as a comprehensive review.  

Introduction

The natural environment has become populated with an increasing and bewildering array of terms and concepts; natural capital, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, net biodiversity gain and net environmental gain and nature recovery networks. Each term in itself requires unpacking but crucially needs to be understood in terms of how they all fit together so as to deliver better environmental outcomes.  This is problematic as they have all been introduced at different times and for different purposes so their fit is not perfect.  The guidance does not address this and thus leaves the concepts floating within their own definitional and policy spaces begging the question how they might fit together in plans, policies, programmes and projects.  Given the recent national and local authority declarations of a climate emergency this does represent something of a missed opportunity[1].  

There is reference across the NPPG t…

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03 Jul 2019

Climate Emergency: So What?

Many governments,  local authorities and agencies have declared a climate emergency; in all by the end of June 2019,  some  135 million people have been affected.  Indeed,  the UK has become the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency. 

This positive worldwide action begs fundamental questions about what this declaration means and whether it will lead to new responses and interventions in policies, plans, projects and programmes and then how such an emergency will inform key planning and resource management decisions. The context to this is important as whilst many people are concerned about climate change,  there is a reluctance to pay more to take action against it. This reinforces a wider view that  the environment  imposes a constraint on development or economic growth and thus becomes politically volatile with voters as France recently discovered under

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25 May 2019

In recent weeks we have been exposed to a whole series of reports and actions on the climate emergency we face [1], rapid and unprecedented declines in global biodiversity[2] and the hidden killer of air pollution that is responsible for some 4.2 million deaths annually[3] . Individually these issues are alarming but collectively they signal the need for important actions globally, nationally and locally. In my view it fundamentally demands change in how we view and use nature as a society. For too many it is seen as a luxury that can be dealt with once economic growth and other political imperatives have been achieved.  Rarely has it been, or is it, seen as critical infrastructure in the kind of places we seek to create. At the heart of this blog is the need to mainstream nature into policy and decision- making  

It is here that the ‘mainstreaming’ concept needs to be brought into sharp focus. All too often it is a term that is loosely used and falsely claimed. Mainstreaming is about taking a concept, accepted and  used in one policy area and embedding it across other policy domains within their daily priorities. For nature, this means securing improved traction and subsequent adoption in the business, housing, growth, health and community sectors associated with urban expansion wh…

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13 Sep 2018

Mainstreaming green infrastructure in policy and decision making: unlocking the potential of the planning system

Special issue : Guest Editor Prof Alister Scott 

The Town and Country Planning Association's landmark journal Town and Country Planning is published monthly and provides a synthesis of thought provoking debate and astute analysis with feature articles written by expert practitioners, decision makers and academics. This current call for papers is for a special issue on mainstreaming green infrastructure in the planning system of 2000-2500 words. Contributions are desired from academics, policy and practice to share their experiences, lessons and solutions.  

Anybody with an interest should set out a 200 word proposal following the guidelines below.  The proposal should be a word skeleton outlining your paper and how it meets the criteria below

The key criteria for acceptance are

1. That the paper is looking at a key aspect(s) of the planning and development process and the way that GI is/isnt integrated within it.

2. That the paper is critical and reflective highlighting the lessons learnt from the experience rather than feature on an exemplar alone.

3. That the paper does explicitly consider the concept of mainstreaming moving beyond its use and application in the environmental sector.

4. A strict word limit of 2500 words is applied.

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09 Aug 2018

Making the Green Belt more productive An interview for RT news channel 

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08 Aug 2018

Should Britain build on its green belt to solve the housing crisis? (First published in February 2017) 

Back in the 1930s, English planners came up with a novel idea to prevent urban sprawl: a ring of countryside surrounding the city, protected from development by law. This “green belt” would preserve the unique characters of historic towns, safeguard the countryside from development and encourage the regeneration and reuse of urban land. It was adopted nationally in 1955, and around 13% of England is now zoned as green belt land.

But today, the UK is experiencing a housing crisis. The nation requires nearly 300,000 new homes each year to keep up with demand – not to mention making up for the undersupply from previous years. In the year to September 2016, only 141,000 were built. This deficit has sparked renew…

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27 Jul 2018

 

Mainstreaming nature in planning policy: Finding the hooks and crooks in the new NPPF

There has been much comment and hype over the long awaited NPPF released on the last day before summer recess (24th July 2018). This blog uses a green infrastructure lens set within the wider umbrella of spatial planning to pass comment on the NPPF’s environmental credentials. In a previous output from a research project on mainstreaming green infrastructure, a collective response from the Green Infrastructure Partnership was made under my editorship highlighting our concerns over the draft NPPF[1]. This may provide useful reading to put this blog in context.

I have framed this piece looking at the NPPF in its entirety and then drilling into specific sections. It forms a starting point for further discussions and comment.

Overall purpose and vision.

The NPPF is currently being framed as a set of planning rules by both government and press in its external communications. This is not what the NPPF is or should be. In many ways this reflects the lack of vision within the NPPF itself. Good planning is much more than applying a set of rules. At its heart is the concept of designing and building better places and environments within a placemaking agenda. Here planners have a set of skills and tools to do this and have undergone years of professional trainin…

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23 Jul 2018

Hopes for the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2018

Following an extensive consultation with members of the Green Infrastructure Partnership[1], a response to the draft NPPF 2018 was published and sent to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)[2].  This forms a key output of my Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange fellowship[3], which seeks to improve the way that nature is mainstreamed in planning policy and decision making. As the new NPPF 2018 is expected to be published tomorrow here are the key aspirations from that document.   

 First and foremost, nature is not a bolt-on or secondary issue to economic development and housing. It is the bedrock upon which a successful economic development strategy and delivery can be built and thus should be built in from the outset. However, the silos and institutional myopia within national and local government are hindering more effective planning policy and delivery.   Current normal[4] weather in the UK (based on extreme wet/dry/windy/hot/cold conditions) highlights this interdependence quite graphically.

That the NPPF formally adopts the United Nations sustainable development goals as the primary purpose…

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04 Mar 2018

What Kind of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) do we Need

On Monday 5th March 2018 the revised and much changed NPPF will be released for consultation. Its predecessor started off life in 2012 amidst much ministerial acclaim that it was reducing 1000s of pages of planning guidance to 55. Yet, since 2012 there have been reviews of the NPPF and its impact on the built environment which have identified significant failings with the way it was been operating. First the CLG Select Committee report into the operation of the NPPF in 2014 exposed a number of shortcomings related to the sustainable development credentials it was championing. In particular, the impact of viability on housing schemes; the impact on town centres and the impact on communities. A year later the House of Lords Built Environment Committee released Building Better Places which echoed these concerns. In the summary it stated : More fundamentally, however, we are concerned that the overall emphasis on speed and quantity of housing supply appears to threaten place-making itself, along with sustainable planning for the long-term and the delivery of high quality and design standards”. However, both these …

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