16th October 2020

Planning reform – please speak up for bats

Brown long-eared bat

When the prime minister announced radical planning reforms at the end of June we expressed our concern on how this might impact the conservation of bats and other wildlife in a statement which is available HERE. Since then we have joined forces with others to call for a halt to planning deregulation, see joint letter from 18 organisations HERE. We are now asking you to add your voice to ours. We urgently need your help to defend bats and other wildlife at serious risk of the proposed planning reforms, under the guise of removing red tape. Please urge your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and raise the concern highlighted below and in the template letter available from HERE.

The biggest threat to Britain’s wildlife is habitat loss and degradation, which includes planning development if it is not done considerately. Proposed changes to planning regulations in the Government White Paper published in August could make or break efforts to protect and restore many of our long-suffering wildlife populations.

Why are we concerned?

There are four key areas of serious concern to wildlife conservation in the Paper:

  1. The proposals fail to acknowledge and respond to the climate and ecological emergencies and may undermine ambitions outlined in the Environment Bill.
  2. Proposed changes to the way land is allocated and assessed are likely to accelerate nature’s decline.
  3. Robust and up-to-date environmental data is needed so planners can make properly informed decisions. Simplifying environmental impact assessments will not help in this matter. It is likely to undermine conservation.
  4. New developments may be permitted without proper scrutiny. The changes do not give local communities a fair say in local planning.

We recognise the need for more affordable housing, but any reform of the planning system needs to be done in a way that is sensitive to the needs of local communities and avoids impacts on the environment and wildlife.

The UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook and WWF Living Planet Index published in September 2020 confirmed that overall, the UK’s wildlife and natural environment are still in decline. The planning reforms have the potential to accelerate that decline, which will in turn impact negatively on all our lives and on the economy. What some may view as red tape is our first line of defence against the destruction of Britain’s precious natural heritage.

Britain’s 18 resident bat species play a hugely important role in ecosystems as nocturnal predators of insects. Six bat species remain endangered, but it is encouraging that the latest data from our National Bat Monitoring Programme show that some populations appear to be stable or increasing following significant historic declines. This is in stark contrast to the findings of the State of Nature 2019 report, which found 44% of wildlife species have decreased in the last 10 years. A combination of legislation and education has assisted the partial recovery of some bat species. In the UK, we do not have many conservation stories where we have seen species recovery, but this is one of them. If reforms are not done sensitively, the Government risks undermining and reversing one of the very few conservation successes we have witnessed in the last decade.

The Bat Conservation Trust is joining a growing number of voices from across the political spectrum who have highlighted the potential dangers these reforms pose to wildlife and environmental protection. It is time to fundamentally rethink planning reform in a constructive and inclusive way to protect local natural habitats for wildlife that also benefit our own health and wellbeing.

Please urge your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and raise these concerns with him. It only takes 30 seconds to send an email to your MP, please email or write to your MP by the 29th of October. Do personalise the letter and remember to include your address details and complete the highlighted sections. Please let us know or copy us in at comms@bats.org.uk. The link to the template letter is available HERE

If you don’t know who your MP is you can find their details here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

If you want to kept informed of this and future campaigns to protect and enhance the legal protection to bats and the habitats they depend on, please add your details to our campaigns list here: http://eepurl.com/gGqJDH

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