Call for protection of wildlife-rich areas

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Environmental charities are calling on the Government to honour its commitment to ‘protect previously-developed or brownfield land that is of high environmental value for wildlife’.

It follows the Government’s recent proposal to introduce a statutory register for brownfield land.

To help the Government fulfil this commitment, originally made in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Wildlife and Countryside Link, a charity which brings together 44 voluntary organisations, including Northumberland Wildlife Trust, concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife and the countryside, has published guidelines to determine exactly what is meant by ‘high environmental value’.

The definition will make it easier for local authorities and developers to appropriately prioritise brownfield sites for development while honouring the Government’s commitment to protect wildlife.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: “While the NPPF commits to protecting brownfield land of high environmental value, it fails to define it. As a result, wildlife is continuing to suffer.

“We have now provided guidelines to clarify the process for everyone. After all, it is important that brownfield sites of high environmental value are properly considered in the planning process.

“This guidance will give ecologists, planners, developers and land managers the information they need to make good planning decisions.”

Brownfield land includes places such as abandoned industrial sites and most can be beneficially redeveloped in order to reduce the need to build on greenfield land in the countryside.

But a small but important number of sites are hugely valuable for both people and wildlife; it is often the only green space available to communities within urban environments and can also provide havens for wildlife.

Steve added: “We hope that the clarity we have provided will mean that brownfield sites that come forward for development are subject to the appropriate ecological assessments, which will ensure sustainable development while protecting and enhancing greenspaces and the wonderful wildlife they support.”

The guidelines document is available at www.wcl.org.uk

In April, the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) published research suggesting there is enough brownfield land available in England to build 226,000 houses by 2019.

RICS’ head of policy, Jeremy Blackburn, said: “What we must be clear about is that in order to create the places people want to live and raise families, we must have a coherent approach to developing on brownfield that involves communities and sets standards for categorising land for use which can form a national brownfield map for viable housing delivery.

“Collaboration across both public and private sectors to lower barriers and streamline the housing delivery process is vital if we are to deliver the number of homes that UK brownfield has the potential to deliver.”