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Governments green plan pledges strengthened planning rules and enhanced green belt

Published 15th January 2018

The Government has set out its plans to protect the natural environment and increase biodiversity across the UK. Launched by DEFRA, the Plan provides the Government’s vision for the environment, post-Brexit, and the measures of how this vision will be realised.

Writing in the foreword to the document, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Secretary, Michael Gove, states “population growth and economic development will mean more demand for housing and this government is committed to building many more homes”. However, he adds, “we will ensure that we support development and the environment by embedding the principle that new development should result in net environmental gain – with neglected or degraded land returned to health and habitats for wildlife restored or created”.

Currently, planning regulations require the system to provide environmental and biodiversity improvements “where possible.” Under the proposed new guidelines, the Government will “explore strengthening this requirement for planning authorities to ensure environmental net gains across their areas, and will consult on making this mandatory.”

Some commentators say those who have identified the release of green belt land for new developments will be disappointed by the Plan, which says that the government will “remain committed to protecting it” as it plays “an important role in preventing urban sprawl through the planning process”. It says there will be “enhancement of the green belt” to “make this land ‘breathing space’ for our urban populations to enjoy, and our diverse wildlife to flourish, while delivering the homes this country needs.

Further regulations include strengthening rules on flood risk, ensuring protection of ancient woodlands and the creation of a cross-government project, led by Natural England, to review and update existing standards for green infrastructure by Summer 2019.

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