E&I Committee green light Biodiversity Planning Guidance for Highland
Members of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee today (16 November 2023) agreed that new draft Biodiversity Planning Guidance (BPG) should be released for a public consultation.
The BPG aims to ensure planners, applicants, and agents operate within National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) Policy 3 criteria.
Public comments will be given due consideration and feedback on the consultation along with an updated BPG will be presented to members at a future Economy and Infrastructure (E&I) Committee.
Highland Council’s Biodiversity Planning Guidance (BPG) aims to provide clarity and certainty for applicants and agents and sets out what supporting information is required to demonstrate the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of biodiversity.
Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans said: “This guidance will enable Highland Council’s planners to take a consistent, fair, transparent, proportionate, and balanced approach to enabling biodiversity to be conserved, restored, and enhanced.
“The Council recognises that specialist in-house ecological advice will not be readily available for the majority of applications and this guidance will provide that essential support.”
Cllr Gowans added: “The twin climate and nature crises are interlinked and reinforcing; a decline in biodiversity will exacerbate the climate crisis, and a changing climate will accelerate the rate of biodiversity loss.
“Implementing the Biodiversity Planning Guidance to secure positive effects for biodiversity (as required by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and policies of NPF4) the Council will make a significant and meaningful contribution to Net Zero and nature restoration targets and align with the local authority’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency back in 2019.”
The BPG has been benchmarked with other local authority biodiversity policies from across Scotland and has been written with input from planning officers.
The BPG will bring the Council in line with most other Scottish Local Authorities who have well-established biodiversity guidance for planning officers, applicants, and agents, and who already routinely require ecological information to support planning applications.
Securing positive effects for biodiversity is one of six statutory outcomes introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. The Council’s BPG details how the local authority will implement NPF4’s Policy 3 and highlights what’s required.
NPF4 Policy 3 provides the primary framework for delivering on biodiversity and seeks to ‘protect biodiversity, reverse biodiversity loss, deliver positive effects from development and strengthen nature networks’.
The key areas in which the BPG will provide guidance for include Local Development, Major, National, and EIA-scale Development and Off-site Offsetting.
More details can be found in the report agreed by Members at today’s meeting under Item 6