AREAS of critical importance for wildlife are being overlooked, according to Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
The charity is concerned that under the proposed reforms in the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local wildlife sites will lose the protection they currently have.
There are more than 40,000 local wildlife sites in England.
All play a critical conservation role by providing wildlife refuges, protecting threatened species and habitats, and acting as links and corridors between designated sites.
The Trust says it is crucial that any changes to the planning system continue to protect such sites, but they are not formally recognised in the draft NPPF.
It wants the recognition of the sites in national planning policy strengthened.
Trust chief executive Mike Pratt said: “The proposed planning reforms leave local wildlife sites without sufficient safeguards. It is imperative that the importance of protecting these sites is recognised.”
“There is a real need to retain and strengthen the protection afforded to local wildlife sites.”
The Trust believes the planning system should reflect the long-term interests of the public, as well as the commitment the Government made to protect the natural environment in its Natural Environment White Paper.
Mr Pratt added: “The restoration of the natural environment is important to our long-term economic recovery and quality of life.
“The draft NPPF’s strong focus on short-term economic growth raises serious concerns for us that the protection and restoration of the natural environment could be hindered.”
The Trust is urging the public to use the final weeks of a consultation period into the NPPF to voice their concerns for wildlife. The consultation closes on Monday, October 17.