A study commissioned by Defra shows the current levels of resource, capacity and expertise within English local authorities is not adequate to deal with their existing planning workload, let alone any increase required to address additional work on Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).
The report, produced by the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) and Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), sets out the results of a survey of 337 individuals working for 192 local planning authorities (LPAs).
Only 5% of respondents said their current ecological resource is adequate to scrutinise all applications that might affect biodiversity, while fewer than 10% reported that their current expertise and resources will be adequate to deliver BNG. The report also finds only 25% of respondents were regularly using Natural England’s Standing Advice in reviewing applications.
The results of this survey are compared to a similar study conducted by ALGE in 2013 that found 90% of local authority planners lack ecological qualifications and have had very little training.
The report provides several recommendations for Defra to address some of these issues, including:
- Clearly setting out responsibilities for LPAs in delivering BNG and local Nature Recovery Strategies, and communicating BNG as a measure that should be implemented at a council-wide level.
- Providing adequate funding for the preparation and implementation of BNG, and discouraging re-routing of BNG income to other priority areas.
- Preparing training and guidance in all key areas of BNG for professionals involved in the design and preparation of new developments and planning applications
- Encouraging the sharing of good practice between LPAs and recognising a ‘one size fits all’ may not be suitable.