PAS has produced a set of 12 Case Studies on Nature Recovery and Biodiversity. There will be a blog post every week spotlighting two case studies and identifying why the Local Authority was chosen to research along with an overview of the project.
Map of Case Study Locations
Local Authorities are busy preparing for the significant changes being made to the English planning system to meet the government's environmental targets following the publication of the 25 year Environment Plan and Environment Act (2021). The more recent publication of the Environment Improvement Plan and government response to the BNG consultation indicate the extent of the new duties being placed on Local Authorities in 2023 - most notably the introduction of mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
PAS has interviewed 12 Local Planning Authorities across the country to explore how they're preparing for these changes and showcase projects which are facilitating positive environmental outcomes. The project highlights the unique circumstances and plethora of challenges that every Local Planning Authority faces when undertaking a nature recovery project. However, four themes emerged when LPA's were asked to give their experiences of nature recovery:
1. Use of innovative funding models in nature recovery
When reflecting on their experiences, many councils expressed difficulties in securing financial models to support the long-term resourcing of staff on nature recovery projects. Greater Manchester Combined Authority's case study showcases how innovative funding models are being developed blending both private and public sector funding opportunities. Similarly, Essex Council's recruitment of new environmental officers led to leveraging in additional resourcing and considerations on how this can create sustainable funding opportunities for new nature recovery projects.
2. The importance of early preparation for mandatory BNG
Cornwall Council and Bath and Northeast Somerset Council's case studies illustrate the benefits of introducing BNG policy into local planning processes early, examining how SPD's and Chief Planning Officer's notes can be as a way of learning ahead of BNG's mandatory introduction. A review of planning applications submitted to Tunbridge Wells and the London Borough of Sutton sheds light on the application of BNG policies in practice, the challenges that are common with BNG, and how they are tackling these issues.
3. Meeting wider corporate objectives through nature recovery
Sheffield and Birmingham Council's case studies reflect on their experiences of delivering nature recovery in urban environments and examines how mapping can be a beneficial tool to pinpoint areas where nature recovery projects would prove the most valuable for both people and nature. The concept of delivering both social and environmental outcomes is further explored in Camden and Islington's study which considers how we can reconsider how greater footfall in the borough's green spaces can be positive for both nature and local communities.
4. The value of co-ordination and partnerships
Buckinghamshire Council's case study illustrates how cross-departmental working with ecology teams, legal departments and planning teams is useful when preparing for mandatory BNG. Hampshire Council's case studies demonstrates the benefits of external partnerships for county-wide nature recovery. Sheffield City Council is using a variety of projects and methods to deliver nature recovery across the city. Walsall and Lichfield Councils case study explores their experiences of collaborating with Natural England on a large-scale nature recovery project.
Spotlight Week 1: Use of innovative funding models in nature recovery
This week's spotlight is on the different uses of funding models to support and deliver nature recovery.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority published the Natural Capital Investment Plan in 2019, which considered how different stakeholders and investors could be used to contribute to Greater Manchester's nature recovery. One its recommendations was the creation of a Greater Manchester Environment Fund. The fund was set up in 2021 and provides a mechanism to collect and distribute funds to enhance Greater Manchester's natural environment. The case study considers the different catalysts for change and how existing partnerships and collaboration were central to delivering the funding model.
Essex County Council's action nature recovery involved a wide-range of projects and actions. This included the employment of three new officers dedicated to Green Infrastructure, a Local-Nature Recovery officer to support the Essex Local Nature Partnership and a forestry and woodland officer to support the Essex Forest Initiative. The case study considers how the proactive employment of dedicated natural recovery officers can act as an opportunity to bring in external funding to deliver nature recovery projects.
Spotlight Week 2: The importance of early preparation for mandatory BNG
This week we are releasing four case studies from authorities who are implementing BNG ahead of its mandatory introduction in January 2024.
The case studies from Bath and Northeast Somerset Council and Cornwall Council look at the policy journey from initially thinking about BNG to its practical application on planning applications. Cornwall Council's case study looks how how using its wider corporate commitments can justify the introduction of BNG requirements early ahead of its mandatory introduction. Bath and Northeast Somerset's case study looks at how other internal reviews aside from policy, including restructuring and staff training, ultimately strengthened their approach and accelerated their policy development.
Tunbridge Wells Council and the London Borough of Sutton Council's case studies provide examples of planning applications dealing with BNG. Tunbridge Well's case study take a deep dive into how BNG was secured for the proposed the construction of 165 new dwellings. It looks at the issues that often come up when attempting to secure a net gain early and demonstrates an example timeline for securing BNG in a large-scale project.
The London Borough of Sutton's case study looks at two example planning applications and how BNG was secured. The first is a small-site application seeking to the proposed demolition of an existing bungalow and erection of a two-storey detached dwelling with a detached double garage. The second looks at a larger site and a redevelopment of redundant wastewater treatment works to construct four industrial units.
Spotlight Week 3: Meeting wider corporate objectives through nature recovery
This week we are launching two case studies from authorities who are closely linking action on nature recovery to wider corporate objectives.
The case study of the collaboration between the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington as a part of the Future Parks Accelerator programme looks at how nature recovery projects can be closely aligned with public health projects. Both Camden and Islington Council's Corporate and Strategic Plans recognise the importance of early intervention and prevention within public health. The two Council's collaborated with other local organisations and charities to consider how green spaces can be best utilised to encourage all residents to use and enjoy.
Birmingham Council's case study looks at how mapping tree coverage in the city can be used to identify areas for future tree-planting projects. The outcomes of the data-mapping project have formed the basis for wider corporate policy developments. For example, the East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy identifies the River Cole as a priority area for nature recovery.
Spotlight Week 4: The value of co-ordination and partnerships
The final spotlight of the Biodiversity and Nature Recovery case studies is on the value of co-ordination and partnerships.
This includes the value of coordination and partnerships internally within local authorities like Buckinghamshire County Council's ecology team who have introduced Biodiversity Net Gain requirements ahead of its mandatory introduction through closely working with the legal, finance and planning teams.
The value of partner-working with other councils is showcased in Walsall and Lichfield council's who have been working together to deliver the Purple Horizon's project across 10,000 hectares of land.
Sheffield Council's case study considers collaboration with external stakeholders including the University of Sheffield to deliver a range of nature recovery projects in an urban area.
Finally, the value of close collaboration and partnerships with local communities is illustrated through Hampshire County Council's case study which looks at carbon sequestration and working with parishes to encourage local communities to volunteer on local nature recovery projects such as the Parish Pollinator Pledge toolkit.