Five key environmental policy changes in the new NPPF

A boost for onshore wind is among a series of changes to environmental policies in the final revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) compared to the draft version published in March. Here are the five you need to know.

The Broads have been granted enhanced protection by the new NPPF. Pic: Roger Green
The Broads have been granted enhanced protection by the new NPPF. Pic: Roger Green

1. Repowering turbines have been granted an exemption from onshore wind restrictions. The new NPPF advises that proposals for one or more wind turbines "should not be considered acceptable" unless they are proposed on sites identified in a development plan and have won the backing of the local community "except for applications for the repowering of existing wind turbines". Max Wakefield, lead campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action, described the move on Twitter as "a win on onshore wind", adding: "This is only a partial win, no doubt, but the first substantive change to reverse obstructive policy since summer 2015. That is good."

2. Enhanced protection for ancient woodland and veteran trees. The draft NPPF advised that development should be refused if it would result in the destruction of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland, unless there are "wholly exceptional reasons". The new document includes "ancient or veteran trees" as an additional example of "irreplaceable habitats". Environmental charity the Woodland Trust, which has long campaigned for the move, said it expects to see a "dramatic reduction" in the number of applications that threaten ancient woodland.

3. Measures to tackle flood risk have been ramped up. Flood and water management should now be considered when outlining the infrastructure contributions expected from new development, the new NPPF says. Detail has also been added on the circumstances when the flood risk exception test should be applied. Need for the test will depend on the potential vulnerability of a site and the development proposed. Applications on allocated sites may still be subject to the exception test if additional information has emerged since the development plan was prepared. It further says that land should be safeguarded from development not only if it’s required, but also if it’s "likely to be required", for current or future flood management. 

4. Local wildlife sites must be protected by local authorities. Councils are instructed to "identify, map and safeguard" components of a hierarchy of "international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity", says the new NPPF. Local wildlife sites were omitted from this definition in March's draft version but have now been reinstated. Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive at The Wildlife Trusts, said: "We are relieved that some protection for local wildlife sites is now to be given again under English planning rules. Taking away protection for these beautiful places, as originally proposed, would have been a disaster for wildlife."

5. National parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been granted the "highest status of protection". This wording had been dropped from the draft NPPF. The scale and extent of development within these areas should be limited, says the new document, and planning permission for major development should be refused other than in "exceptional circumstances". Campaign group the Open Spaces Society said it was "delighted that the revised NPPF retains the wording of the 2012 version".

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