Planning for a Better Environment session at PAS Heads of Planning Conference

July 2022

Photo of people in a room sitting down and chatting with a picture of a map on the wall in front

At the PAS Heads of Planning Conference in July 2022, we explored the role of the natural environment in place-making and the role of planners to fit the pieces together. With the Environment Act and Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in mind, we discussed the key challenges and opportunities for local authorities and asked what PAS can do to help.

The consensus from the workshops was that local planning authorities will need to do things differently. Whilst planning has always taken account of the environment, it needs to evolve to address the environmental agenda. Increasingly, planners will need to facilitate opportunities as well as manage constraints. The big challenge is integrated delivery. Planners can’t do this alone – it requires:

  • cross-disciplinary teams and departments with the right expertise working together;
  • local political buy-in and engagement with local communities;
  • cross-boundary working and effective collaboration between upper and lower tier authorities;
  • developing approaches with a range of partners and stakeholders, including statutory bodies; and
  • join-up from government across existing and new policy and legislative areas, including planning, the Habitats Regulations and the Environment Act.

The main barriers are seen as:

  • a significant lack of capacity and capability,
  • conflicting priorities and the availability of land,
  • the long-term nature of delivery,
  • development of new markets and how a market approach fits with planning, and
  • access to data and evidence.

We had a presentation from Bolsover District Council on their approach to planning for a better environment and developing a district-wide nature recovery strategy: 

We are keen to work with planning authorities to understand more about how to plan for a better environment, so that we can provide feedback to Government, highlight issues to see if we can help you, and share examples and best practice.

There will be a variety of different ways to embark on this challenge and many local authorities are already taking initial steps, like Bolsover DC. Approaches will adapt and evolve over time but it's important to make a start as it will likely be less complicated than it first appears. We'd like to help build on what local authorities are already doing, by collaborating and sharing knowledge and experience. In this way, we hope to share simple steps that can be easily adopted to change the way we are approaching planning and the environment.

We are setting up a new network of environmental planners to come together to help join the dots, make the most of the opportunities available and develop our collective thinking. If you are interested in joining this PAS Environmental Planning Network, please contact Roy Hymas.

We are looking to set up an online collaborative space, but keen to hear from you what you would find most helpful to get this started. Perhaps some workshops, webinars or meetings to share experience - let us know!

Legislative and policy context to planning for a better environment

Graphic with post-it notes showing existing and upcoming policy and legislation relating to planning and the environment, including the Environment Act, Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and Habitats Regulations