Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Document Section Draft Local Plan July 2018 Safeguarding places for Wildlife and Nature Blue Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment Policy 6 - Safeguarding Places for Wildlife and Nature [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID DLPP772
Respondent Natural England (Natural Engla… [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 19 Sep 2018
Current Status Accepted
Response Type OBSERVATIONS
Comment

Policy 6 Safeguarding Places for Wildlife and Nature


Natural England considers this policy to be a significant part of the local plan. An important point is
that the plan needs to specifically and clearly aim for measurable net gains for nature. Currently,
the policy aims for no net loss, which does not align with the current NPPF (2018). We refer to sections
170 (d), 174 (b) and 175 (d) of the NPPF, which require planning policies to provide measurable net
gains for biodiversity. Furthermore, the policy does not align with the objective of the accompanying
Sustainability Appraisal (SA) relating to achieving a net gain in biodiversity.

 


The rationale underpinning the move to net gain is a result of progression in Government policy on
development and the natural environment. This includes the strengthening of the NPPF in securing
net gain through development, and Defra will be consulting later this year on making it mandatory.
This is following the publishing of Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, in which net gain through
development is the first key objective.


As such it is necessary for the Local Plan Policies to embed provision for biodiversity net gain through
development. You may wish to consider including more detailed guidance for developers on
achieving net gain, and we suggest the following measures are incorporated into the Local Plan, either
through policy wording, or a more detailed Supplementary Planning Document:


 Biodiversity metric – developers should apply the Defra biodiversity metric, which is a clear
and methodical calculation for net gain in biodiversity for individual planning proposals. The
metric is currently being updated by Defra and Natural England to include a wider range of
habitat types and incorporate wider benefits of Green Infrastructure (GI). It should be available
this autumn.


 Net gain plans – development applications are required to submit a net gain plan which clearly
sets out the ecological issues of the proposals, including clear accounting for residual
biodiversity loss and how this is addressed, as well as additional ‘net gain’ provision which can
be on and/or off-site.


You may wish to consider what threshold may be applied to development. We advise that
where known ecological interests occur (e.g. ponds, bat roosts etc.), or proposals involving at
least 0.1ha of greenfield land, a net gain plan should be required to address these issues.


A standard template for net gain plans may be useful to provide consistency and to facilitate
policy reporting and auditing.


 Approval by council ecologist – net gain plans should be approved by the Council’s
ecologist or retained ecologist.


In addition to embedding net gain provision, this policy presents an opportunity to include aims to
contribute to/enhance the natural and local environment by recognising the wider benefits of
ecosystem services, and identifying and promoting strategic, landscape scale approaches for
conservation and enhancement of biodiversity. This may link with net gain opportunities and GI.
Further advice on GI is provided towards the end of the letter.


If not already undertaken, we recommend engagement with Kent Nature Partnership, who are likely
to provide input into the evidence base and help guide policy aims.

In addition to the (non-exhaustive) list of sites which are to be protected from development, you may
wish to include additional wording to clarify how the decision framework would restrict development
in terms of nature conservation, including protection of sites and habitats valued for their biodiversity,
but also the wider ecological networks across the district. It should be clear that development resulting
in a significant impact on designated sites or which would otherwise result in a significant impact on
biodiversity should not normally be permitted.


Guidance on site-specific considerations is welcome, and it is positive that development of smaller
sizes/scale have been considered for their potential contributions for biodiversity. However, careful
wording is required to avoid undue focus on small areas and/or small-scale enhancements, as these
may not always be appropriate. In this case, you may wish to consider acknowledging the contribution
of small areas of landscaping at some (smaller) sites, whilst highlighting the need to consider
contributions to the wider ecological network, and ensuring that any mitigation, compensation and/or
enhancements are appropriate to the size, scale and location of the development.


The mitigation/enhancement ideas and requirement that new habitat and biodiversity features are
secured for the lifetime of the development are welcomed.


We note the policy does not yet include indicators for monitoring the performance of the policies
against the objectives of the SA. As set out in Planning Practice Guidance, the significant
environmental effects of implementing the plan should be monitored. This should include indicators
for effects of the plan on biodiversity (NPPF para 117).


It is important any monitoring indicators relate to the effects of the plan itself, not wider changes.
Bespoke indicators should be chosen relating to the outcomes of development management
decisions.


Whilst it is not Natural England’s role to prescribe what indicators should be adopted, the following
may be appropriate:
Biodiversity
 Number of planning approvals that generated any adverse impacts on sites of acknowledged
biodiversity importance
 Percentage of major developments generating overall biodiversity enhancement.
 Hectares of biodiversity habitat delivered through strategic site allocations
Landscape
 Amount of new development in AONB and its setting with commentary on likely impact
Green infrastructure/ access
 Percentage of the District’s population having access to a natural greenspace within 400
metres of their home
 Length of greenways constructed
 Hectares of accessible open space per 1000 population.


We also advise this policy should refer to geological conservation, including conservation,
interpretation and management of geological sites and features, not just within designated sites but
across the wider environment.


The final sentence of the policy should read ‘or [an unacceptable] impact on habitats and species’
(not ‘and the’).

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