Green groups urge bill habitats action

A coalition of conservationists is demanding government planning reforms protect and restore wildlife habitats and landscapes.

The group has cast serious doubt over whether the decentralisation and localism bill, which aims to give communities a greater say in development, will amount to meaningful change.

Representing 22 bodies with 6.5 million members, the coalition urges ministers to ensure that the bill protects landscapes and habitats, promotes sustainable management of natural resources and gives people a say in planning issues.

Members include the Campaign for Better Transport, the Campaign for National Parks, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Environmental Law Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Open Spaces Society, RSPB and the Town and Country Planning Association.

RSPB planning and regional policy chief and coalition chairman Simon Marsh said: "This is the opportunity to create a sustainable planning system which minimises the impact of development on our natural environment and allows us to mitigate and adapt to climate change."

The coalition's manifesto highlights the joined-up strategic planning under the Thames Basin Heaths delivery plan, which saw 13 local authorities working together to deliver housing and other development without harm to the area's valuable heathland, as an example of best practice.

"It warns that without a strategic framework, such plans are unlikely to get off the ground.

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