Laura Sharman 14 February 2022

Campaigners warn planning system is 'destroying nature'

Campaigners warn planning system is destroying nature image
Image: Love all this photography /

The RSPB has called for urgent reforms to the planning system, arguing it is failing to protect nature in its current form.

The charity said the system is squeezing nature out and being damaged further by the sheer volume of applications.

Research by the RSPB found 85% of 422,000 planning applications were approved by local authorities in England between 2009-2020. Of the 98 Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects applications, only four have been refused and one partially refused.

A snapshot of the data taken in July 2021 shows over 8,000 planning applications located within 500 methres of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Alice Hardiman, RSPB England’s head of policy, said: 'Our current planning system is broken. Swamped by sheer numbers of applications and with loopholes that pepper the system, allowing developers to weave around conditions meant to protect nature. And what protection for nature there is, has been watered down.

'Applications shouldn’t be viewed in isolation but need to be assessed as part of a wider picture with the cumulative effects of decisions being considered. This is not currently being done and consequently both people and wildlife are losing out. The places, sights and sounds that we love are disappearing.'

The report - Losing What We Love: How planning is affecting our wildlife - sets out eight ways the planning system could be improved to better support nature’s recovery.

This includes introducing a new planning designation to safeguard land for nature’s recovery and reintroducing an effective ‘larger than local’ tier of planning.

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