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Planning, Development and Biodiversity

We are often asked about planning decisions, how to object to them and how to influence them.


The need to build more roads and houses is inevitable with a growing population. But these developments use up space and have the potential to impact wildlife. Careful planning can ensure that wildlife still has access to the habitat it needs and that connectivity between different habitats is maintained.

We do sometimes offer general advice to developers, for example on managing a development site for hedgehogs. We also receive specific queries about planning: how to object to an application, how to ensure wildlife is not destroyed during development, and what sort of mitigation is appropriate. For these we can only  offer some guidance, depending on the species or habitat affected.

These pages will help you find the information and steps that you can take to reduce the impact on wildlife from development. Unfortunately we don’t have the staff resource  or the funding to personalise responses to most planning applications, but with our guidance you should be able to help the wildlife in your local area.

What planning work we’re doing

We work closely with wildlife groups and coalitions to affect governmental policy at the highest levels. We are a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link, an umbrella body for Non Governmental Organisations with an environmental focus. The members include all of the large and many smaller wildlife and environmental organisations. WCL advocates for strong legislation, highlights gaps, resists weak policies, and holds government to account for its promises and targets.

What you can do

There are several steps you can take to respond and object to planning decisions. Responses and objections to planning applications must be based on a legal principle rather than anecdotes or personal feelings.

Objections on the basis of the presence of particular species or habitats require evidence. One of the best ways you can help protect wildlife from development is by recording the wildlife you see.

You can record sightings of dormice, hedgehogs and stag beetles through our online forms, as well as take part in the national surveys we run – find out more here.

Alternatively, the best place to record your sightings is with your Local Environmental Record Centre (LERC) as they will then be able to add it to their records, as well as feed the information into national recording schemes. You can find out who your LERC is by using the map on the Association of Local Environmental Record Centres website.

+ The planning system and current legislation

Firstly, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the current planning system and legislation. The Woodland Trust has produced some useful overviews of the planning systems for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These will help you to judge if any wildlife issues are  being played-down or disregarded in the planning application. Next you can see how the development fits with the national planning policy framework for your country, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Planning Policy Framework states that plans should ‘identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity’. This approach aims for changes in land management to improve the natural environment, leaving it with more biodiversity than before development. The biodiversity potential of a site must be measured using a set of metrics, the result of which is used to determine the remedial activities. You can find out more about biodiversity net gains here.

Different types of habitat and species are protected in the UK by law. You can find out more about wildlife legislation, sites protected by legislation, and wildlife crime here.

+ Responding to an application

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with current legislation, and how it affects the proposed site for development, you can start planning a response. The Countryside Charity (CPRE) provides useful information about responding to planning applications and proposes an 8-step process:

  • Look at the planning application
  • Visit the site of the proposed development
  • Decide your stance on the application
  • Examine the development plan
  • Decide on your action
  • Put your comments in writing
  • Gather support
  • Speak at committee meetings

You can also find a sample letter in the appendix of CPRE’s guide to help you form your response.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust also provides useful guidance for responding to planning applications, including tips for writing a response and information about what happens to an application once its been submitted.

The RSPB provides information about gaining local support, including local media and local politicians.

The Woodland Trust has useful advice about arranging community meetings and setting up local groups.

CPRE also has detailed information about challenging a bad development in court.

Key species and habitats

Different species and habitats have varying levels of protection. The Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning provides an excellent resource for advice on protected and priority species, including information on their legal protection, survey information, mitigation, habitat enhancement, post-development monitoring, licencing and references.

PTES focuses on certain  priority species and habitats. Please find below information about our priority species and habitats and how they relate to planning decisions.

Click through for more planning information and legislation of our key species and habitats.

Other useful resources (please note this has a paid subscription)

Let's keep in touch...

We'd love to tell you about our conservation work through our regular newsletter Wildlife World, and also how you can save endangered species through volunteering, taking action or donating. You must be 18 or over. The information that you provide will be held by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. For information on how PTES processes personal data, please see our privacy policy.

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