29th March 2012

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which has immediate effect, is out and the messages are largely encouraging. The overall framework appears to have taken into account the public's concerns, which were raised by Bat Conservation Trust, our members, local bat groups and other NGOs during the consultation and development period. The final document has recognised the importance of planning positively for the natural environment in a way that will allow for growth whilst protecting wildlife.

Most notably, the NPPF contains a definition of sustainable development which will ensure local authorities can plan for vital homes, jobs and transport links without causing damage to our wildlife and countryside. There is also reference to Circular 2005/6 which contains essential guidance on the protection of biodiversity. We also welcome the ambition to achieve net gains for nature.

These are exciting times. Local Authorities have been given more responsibility than ever before to deliver for biodiversity. The proposals outlined within this new planning system have the potential to help the Government deliver on its promises to promote growth, halt the loss of biodiversity and enhance our natural environment.

It is now more vital than ever that local authorities across the UK have up to date local plans in place to ensure that the reforms unveiled today work effectively on the ground protecting the environment whilst allowing responsible development to go ahead. This certainly will be a challenge, particularly as the recent Review of the Habitats and Wild Birds Directive reported that only 35% of Local Authorities have access to staff with ecological expertise.

"There is still more work to do and it will take time to analyse the policies and see what it means in practice, but overall we are encouraged by the content. The challenge will be in the implementation, but as with so many things the devil is in the detail" Lisa Hundt, Head of Biodiversity, Bat Conservation Trust