Planning isn’t the most exciting topic of conservation conversation, but it is an important issue - it shapes the places we live and work, and has an enormous impact on the type and quality of landscape we pass on to future generations. The Trust puts a lot of effort into engaging with the planning system, both regionally and locally, so that decisions made today will benefit wildlife tomorrow. This page provides an overview of our planning activities, explaining how and why we work with Somerset’s Local Planning Authorities.
The Planning System
The planning system exists to control development: it aims to preserve the best of our heritage - both man made and natural - whilst delivering necessary infrastructure. Much emphasis is placed on "sustainability" within the planning system and a raft of national and local policy and guidance exists to help decision makers deliver "sustainable communities". The environment is one element of sustainability: without a healthy, rich and diverse natural world, many of the life supporting goods and services on which our society and economy are built would simply cease to function. So the planning system is a force for conservation, and gives Local Planning Authorities both the power and the opportunity to act positively for biodiversity. With strong, positive policies for biodiversity, Local Planning Authorities can deliver a wildlife-rich future for their area, and grow truly sustainable communities. "Planning for a Healthy Environment - a good practice guide for Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity" has recently been published by the Town & Country Planning Asssociation and the Wildlife Trusts and includes contributions from officers of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.
Planning for Somerset’s Wildlife
Whilst there is a framework of conservation legislation and planning policy protecting wildlife, the implementation and interpretation of this is not always straightforward! We feel it’s worth taking the time and effort to get it right though: a healthy natural world is essential to sustainability, and we know that local communities benefit from, and enjoy living in, a wildlife-rich environment.
The Trust works hard to give wildlife a strong, clear voice in the planning system, to make sure that strategies, plans and policies give nature the best possible deal. We deal with strategic planning, neighbourhood planning and development control, aiming to ensure that the natural environment is enhanced, not damaged, through development.
As so many planning applications are received by Somerset's Local Planning Authorities it is impossible for us to comment on every case that could affect wildlife. Therefore we rely upon our members, volunteers, and concerned local residents to take a stand and raise their voice for wildlife. If a development proposal near you seems to have overlooked local wildlife, why not get involved and give nature a voice? Our straightforward guide 'Planning for Somerset’s Wildlife' is available to download and gives you all the information you need to make a difference.
Photograph: Great Crested Newt © Philip Precey