Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Landscape Institute

The Landscape Institute

The Landscape Institute (LI) is an educational charity and chartered body responsible for protecting, conserving and enhancing the natural and built environment for the benefit of the public. It champions well-designed and well-managed urban and rural landscape.

Reactions to the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP)

1. Elements of the NEWP which are Supported

1.1 The LI welcomes the NEWP as it sets out a strong vision for the natural environment. In particular, we support the following aspects:

Recognition of the intrinsic value of nature, while acknowledging the need to value the economic and social benefits of a healthy natural environment;

Commitment to a strategic approach in planning for nature within and across local areas;

Retention of natural environment protection and improvement as a core objective in the planning system;

Recognition of the importance of “landscape-scale” and multifunctional approaches to land use;

Acknowledgement of the need for green infrastructure generally and, in particular, in urban areas in order to complete the links in our national ecological network; and

Commitment to review how land-owners, managers and farmers are advised and incentivised to create a joined-up approach.

2. Sections of the NEWP which could be Improved

2.1 The definition of green infrastructure (p. 31) would be improved if it included explicit reference to its multifunctional nature, a defining feature of the concept.

2.2 Paragraph 2.35 states Government wants “…to encourage local authorities to promote multifunctional development so that we get the most from land”. This is an admirable objective, yet the NEWP lacks detail as to how this will be achieved.

2.3 Paragraph 2.37 relates to the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF will be one of the most critical factors in delivering the aspirations of the NEWP. The NPPF must embed the vision set out in the NEWP. At present, paragraph 2.37 is weak on the links between these publications.

2.4 Paragraph 2.80 states that green spaces will “…be managed to provide diverse functions for the benefit of people and wildlife” yet it is unclear how Government intends to make this happen.

3. Any omissions from the NEWP which Defra should Rectify

3.1 The European Landscape Convention, of which the UK government is a signatory, provides an excellent framework for safeguarding landscape. It would be good if the NEWP outlined how its content helps contribute towards implementation.

4. Suggestions for Issues the Committee may wish to Include in Terms of Reference for a Possible Future Select Committee Inquiry into Detailed Aspects of the NEWP

4.1 The importance of the forthcoming NPPF in facilitating much of the vision contained within the NEWP should not be underestimated. A future Select Committee inquiry could usefully explore the ways in which the reformed planning system is assisting/facilitating/hindering in the delivery of the Government’s vision for the natural environment.

4.2 The links with the Public Services Bill will be of significance as this will deal with local management of green spaces.

20 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012