Narrative and key points to accompany presentation on using the Ecosystem Approach in a Local Plan
This should be read in conjunction with http://www.slideshare.net/BSBEtalk/mainstreaming-the-ecosystem-approach-in-local-plans
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative and key points to accompany presentation on using the Ecosystem Approach in a Local Plan
A summary of my talk: Why the built environment professions need to engage with the
1. At present the built and natural environment professions and disciplines exist in their own
worlds with their own governance, institutions, policy and guidance. Rarely do these worlds
intersect and there is an important opportunity space to secure more joined up planning
outcomes from such a union.
2. Due to this divide the value of nature has remained largely forgotten or overlooked in the
built environment policy and decisions.
3. The twin concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services provide a mechanism to help
cross this divide and take better account of the value of nature in policy and decisions.
Crucially it transforms the common perception of the environment as a negative constraint
to growth to an asset that delivers significant environment, economic and social benefits.
4. Ecosystem services allow the benefits and value of nature to be recognised and measured
set within a typology of provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting. These benefits and
assets are key to planning and quality of life agendas. However, there is an inherent risk here
that we only value what is measured rather than measure what we value.
5. To help overcome this difficulty the ecosystem approach has 12 guiding principles for the
management of both built and natural environment settings. These apply to planners and
accord with the principles of spatial planning, yet they are rarely encountered explicitly in
daily work practice.
6. The key issue here is that these principles are not pick and mix they are to be used
concurrently to shape good policy and decision making.
7. One key problem with planners and the built environment profession’s engagement with
ecosystem thinking is that of language. Thus we need to move away from alien concepts and
use the current hooks of the built environment that do inform daily practice and then show
the added value of ecosystem thinking within these.
8. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has the following key hooks that are
relevant and serve a building blocks to show how ecosystem thinking can improve planning
policy and practice.
a. Paragraph 109 Value Ecosystem Services incorporating concepts of ecological
corridors, green and blue infrastructure and biodiversity offsetting.
b. The Duty to Cooperate
9. Paragraph 109 of the NPPF is highly significant in that it contains a commitment to
recognise the value of ecosystem services a first for English planning. There is a key role
here for the evidence base in terms of mapping the amount and quality ecosystem services
in the area. These maps can be useful to explore new opportunities, manage trade offs and
targeting interventions. Here work by Natural England in their National Character
Assessment is useful
10. The Duty to Cooperate is a key requirement for local plan preparation but is largely confined
to matters of housing markets and availability to service the requirement for objectively
assessed housing need. Using the principles of the ecosystem approach on adjacent effects
and wider strategic planning issues there is a great opportunity to think bigger, better and
more joined up. For example water catchments for flood management and climate change
adaptation. This can result in new and productive partnerships to look at this bigger picture.
However all too often such partnerships do not have planners on board. At present this is
not done or enforced to any great extent by PINS.
11. Viability is a key feature of the NPPF and it is currently being used to ensure that projects are
deliverable in terms of being economic viable for developers. Again using the principles of
equity, social and environmental justice, limits and thresholds we can make a case for
planners to equally consider social (affordable housing) and environmental viability
(irreplaceability). This goes back to the roots of the planning system.
12. Regulation involves a suite of tools that are used in planning practice to improve policy and
decisions. Here EIA and SEA all feature as well as the local plan itself which in a plan led
system is that statutory documents to guide development decisions. If the ecosystem
services ideas can be secured through the scoping and evidence bases this can start to
embed the value of nature into the process from the outset transforming the idea of the
environment as a constraint to growth but towards an asset. Within development
management decisions SuDS are a key tool which currently lacks legislative implementation
and bite despite being approved in the 2010 Act. This is where Defra and DCLG need
themselves to recognise the benefits that SuDs supply in terms of flood, water, health and
climate change adaptation. There are also significant opportunities presented by the
Community Infrastructure levy where the thinking could move towards accommodating vital
green and blue infrastructure. This is really important in areas that have valuable and
irreplaceable environmental resources such as peatlands, moorlands and wetlands nearby.
This will have to work hand in hand with improved public understanding of the value of
these assets. Ecosystem services provides a possible key.
13. Incentives are less commonly used in planning practice but tools do exist. Here there is a
burgeoning Payments for Ecosystem Services market opening up where there is a provider
or manager of an ecosystem service who can provide a service to potential consumers or
beneficiaries. Exmoor provides one example within which the South West Upstream thinking
initiative has flourished. A particularly good video is provided by the West Country Rivers
Trust which I did not cover in my talk.
14. Localism is another key hook to work with. Here the neighbourhood plan provides an
important opportunity space to enable communities to map their ecosystem services and
then build them into their plans realising their value as assets. This can occur retrospectively
such as in Much Wenlock.
15. The transition towards ecosystem thinking and practice in planning and the built
environment professions is not going to happen overnight and we have to be realistic and
pragmatic in what can be achieved. Our own research here for the National Ecosystem
Follow on project has revealed a variety of case studies; each making their own way in this
new learning environment. The key is clearly to share such good practice.
16. In many ways the biggest barrier to overcome is that of language. Ecosystem terminology is
offputting to planners but hopefully you can now start to engage by using the principles in
your work. However by looking at the principles of the ecosystem approach in more modern
day parlance and incorporating ecosystem services through the hooks that shape daily
planning practice we can make progress linking the NPPF with the Natural Environment
White Paper (NEWP). Here the shared language of benefits unites and enables the built and
natural divide to be crossed.
17. Key home work is for everyone in the built environment profession to read the NEWP as
when I asked few had actual read it.