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What changes are proposed to Planning Policy Wales relating to Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Trees and Woodlands and Green Infrastructure?

May 23, 2023

The Welsh Government has proposed a number of changes to the Planning Policy Wales to strengthen practice on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), tree and woodlands and green infrastructure. It aims to improve biodiversity and the resilience of ecosystems in Wales. The changes are outlined over 21 pages in the proposed changes document. 

What changes are being proposed?

In terms of distinctive and natural placemaking and well-being the proposed changes emphasise that “Proposals should work creatively with nature and should demonstrate how decisions on design, siting, scale density and other key considerations have been informed by biodiversity and ecosystem resilience considerations”. The sensitive integration of how developments should be “woven into its place/context alongside nature” is also clearly outlined by the government.

The importance of taking a proactive approach to green infrastructure is stressed with changes advising that “The planning system should... provide a framework which facilitates the implementation of green infrastructure strategies and which complements maintenance and management regimes within urban areas and wider land management activities in rural areas.”

- The addition of minimum outputs from green infrastructure assessments are also stated:

- Identify landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity, and historic and cultural features that need to be safeguarded as part of multifunctioning urban and rural landscapes.

- Identify how a net benefit for biodiversity will be secured and the attributes of ecosystem resilience will be enhanced, making the links to other land management activity and maintenance regimes.

- Facilitate the reduction of pollution by identifying nature-based solutions which form part of, or complement, wider activity at a catchment scale to address pollution and improve the restoration of riverine and other habitats.

- Address the climate emergency by ensuring that tree canopy cover in urban areas is increased, incorporating measures for maintaining good air quality and appropriate soundscapes, and by requiring effective natural flood management and sustainable urban drainage schemes.

- Ensure that communities have accessible natural green spaces of various sizes and scales within reasonable walking and cycling distances.

- Identify how the provision of green infrastructure could form an integral part of strategies for growth and provide broad parameters for securing its implementation which recognises the dynamic nature of its provision and identifies measures that will need to be provided to safeguard it over the long term.

In terms of SSSIs, the revised document sets out that: “Only where development is considered to be appropriate and is not likely to damage a SSSI and there is broad and clear agreement for potential enhancement (including mitigation and compensation measures) as part of a plan should development be proposed. Development therefore must not be proposed in the absence of an agreed development plan which indicates that it is acceptable in terms of its effect on the notified features of a SSSI.”

The proposed changes also make compensatory planting a requirement at a “minimum ratio of at least 3 trees of similar type planted for every 1 lost”. Compensatory trees must “reflect the scale and species mix which has been lost”.

The consultation closes on the 31st of May. The consultation document and full proposed changes can be found on the Welsh Government website: Planning Policy Wales: net benefit for biodiversity and ecosystems' resilience | GOV.WALES