We have four key workstreams on planning and the environment. Our work on the transition to mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain through the Environment Act started in 2021. In Spring 2022 we started two new programmes of work: supporting councils issued with 'Nutrient Neutrality' advice by Natural England and on a new approach to environmental assessment - Environmental Outcomes Reports (EORs). August 2022 saw us start a project on nature recovery. We are also looking at how to help councils join this all together to plan for a better environment.

The Environment Act covers targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment; environmental reporting; the Office for Environmental Protection; waste and resource efficiency; air quality; environmental standards for products; water; nature and biodiversity; conservation covenants; and the regulation of chemicals. Defra's policy papers set out further details.

The Act brings in new requirements for planners and decision-makers in councils in relation to nature and biodiversity:

  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies
  • Biodiversity Net Gain
  • Strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities
  • Strategic protected site and species strategies
  • New tree felling consultation requirements

PAS has been commissioned by Natural England and Defra to support councils in their efforts to get ready for the changes.

We are leading on a nature recovery project helping local authorities to get ready for delivering the Nature Recovery Network and Local Nature Recovery Strategies and best practice. We have run various events on biodiversity net gain since Summer 2021. We have worked with Natural England and Defra to answer Frequently Asked Questions from local authority officers and members about biodiversity net gain and those that have come up at events so far.

Alongside preparing for the Act, we are also supporting local planning authorities in water catchments affected by nutrient neutrality.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill plus the accompanying policy paper produced by Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), launched a new form of environmental assessment known as Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR). The intention is that Environmental Outcome Reports will replace the existing system of Sustainability Appraisals (SA), Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). Shifting to a new ‘outcomes based’ way of assessing impacts from development, plans, projects and policies is going to take time and PAS will be providing insights and support to councils along the journey. To start that journey PAS, jointly with DLUHC, are holding a series of workshops. You can read more about it here

We recognise the breadth of opportunities and challenges faced by local authorities and we are keen to work with you better understand the role of the natural environment in place-making and the role of planners to fit the pieces together, through our Planning for a Better Environment project.

PAS wants local authority planners and members to get involved to help us 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.

We have a practitioner network for local authority officers interested in BNG, which meets every 6-8 weeks and for which we host an online discussion forum. Please email [email protected] if you would like to join.

We are also 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.

You can also check out the Planning for a Better Environment section of the PAS KHub forum and sign up to the PAS newsletter.