Policy 7.19 Biodiversity and access to nature

Policy

Strategic

A  The Mayor will work with all relevant partners to ensure a proactive approach to the protection, enhancement, creation, promotion and management of biodiversity in support of the Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy. This means planning for nature from the beginning of the development process and taking opportunities for positive gains for nature through the layout, design and materials of development proposals and appropriate biodiversity action plans.

B  Any proposals promoted or brought forward by the London Plan will not adversely affect the integrity of any European site of nature conservation importance (to include special areas of conservation (SACs), special protection areas (SPAs), Ramsar, proposed and candidate sites) either alone or in combination with other plans and projects. Whilst all development proposals must address this policy, it is of particular importance when considering the following policies within the London Plan: 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9, 2.10, 2.11, 2.12, 2.13, 2.14, 2.15, 2.16 and  2.17, 3.1, 3.3, 3.7, 5.4A, 5.14, 5.15, 5.17, 5.20, 6.3, 6.9, 7.14, 7.15, 7.25, 7.26 and 7.27 and 8.1. Whilst all opportunity and intensification areas must address the policy in general, specific locations requiring consideration are referenced in Annex 1.

Planning decisions

C  Development Proposals should:

a  wherever possible, make a positive contribution to the protection, enhancement, creation and management of biodiversity

b  prioritise assisting in achieving targets in biodiversity action plans (BAPs), set out in Table 7.3, and/or improving access to nature in areas deficient in accessible wildlife sites

c  not adversely affect the integrity of European sites and be resisted where they have significant adverse impact on European or nationally designated sites or on the population or conservation status of a protected species or a priority species or habitat identified in a UK, London or appropriate regional BAP or borough BAP.

D  On Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation development proposals should:

a  give the highest protection to sites with existing or proposed international designations[1] (SACs, SPAs, Ramsar sites) and national designations[2] (SSSIs, NNRs) in line with the relevant EU and UK guidance and regulations[3]

b  give strong protection to sites of metropolitan importance for nature conservation (SMIs). These are sites jointly identified by the Mayor and boroughs as having strategic nature conservation importance

c  give sites of borough and local importance for nature conservation the level of protection commensurate with their importance.

E  When considering proposals that would affect directly, indirectly or cumulatively a site of recognised nature conservation interest, the following hierarchy will apply:

1  avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest

2  minimize impact and seek mitigation

3  only in exceptional cases where the benefits of the proposal clearly outweigh the biodiversity impacts, seek appropriate compensation.

LDF preparation

F  In their LDFs, Boroughs should:

a  use the procedures in the Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy to identify and secure the appropriate management of sites of borough and local importance for nature conservation in consultation with the London Wildlife Sites Board.

b  identify areas deficient in accessible wildlife sites and seek opportunities to address them

c  include policies and proposals for the protection of protected/priority species and habitats and the enhancement of their populations and their extent via appropriate BAP targets

d  ensure sites of European or National Nature Conservation Importance are clearly identified.

e  identify and protect and enhance corridors of movement, such as green corridors, that are of strategic importance in enabling species to colonise, re-colonise and move between sites

[1]     Designated under European Union Council Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC) 1992, European Union Council Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC) 1992 and Ramsar Convention on wetlands of international importance especially as waterfowl habitat 1971

[2]     Designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000

[3]     Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations (2010) (as amended)

Supporting text

7.59  London contains numerous sites of importance for nature conservation. The Mayor expects London’s biodiversity and natural heritage to be conserved and enhanced for the benefit of current and future Londoners. These sites form an integral part of London’s green infrastructure and should be linked to other parts of the network to enhance its value. Many of these sites are of international or national importance. Any adverse effects on European sites that are vulnerable will need to be addressed. Natural England will need to be consulted on any application that affects these sites.

7.60  The Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy [1]sets out criteria and procedures for identifying land of importance for London’s biodiversity for protection in LDFs and identifying areas of deficiency in access to nature. Protecting the sites at all levels, serves to protect the significant areas of Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitat in London and most priority species.  However, protection of biodiversity outside designated sites will also be needed. The Mayor and the London Biodiversity Partnership have identified targets in Table 7.3 for the re-creation and restoration of priority habitats, as recommended in paragraphs 109, 114, 117 and 118 of the NPPF. Broad areas where habitat restoration and re-creation would be appropriate have been identified for each of the priority habitats. These have been prepared by Greenspace Information for Greater London on behalf of the London Biodiversity Partnership. Priority should be placed on connecting fragmented habitat and increasing the size of habitat areas to increase resilience to climate change.

Table 7.3 London regional BAP habitat targets for 2020

Habitat type

Maintain current net extent (ha unless stated) – 2008 figures

Target to enhance by 2020 (ha unless stated) – from 2008 baseline

Target to increase by 2020 (ha unless stated) – from 2008 baseline

Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh

850

200

50

Chalk grassland

350

30

10

Acid grassland

1466

40

10

Heathland

45

20

5

Reedbeds

131

20

16

Woodland

4909

500

20

Orchards

18

13

5

Meadows and pastures

685

40

20

Tidal Thames

2300 1

2 km 2

-

Rivers & streams 3

614 km

100 4

25 5

Standing water 6 (large and small sites +2 ha combined)

599

7 >2ha sites

20 <2ha sites

250 ponds <2ha

Fen, marsh and swamp

109

10

-

Open Mosaic habitats on previously developed land 7

185 (conserved and/or created)

-

-

Notes to table 7.3

1  2300 ha includes habitat features found with the tidal Thames including mudflats, saltmarsh and reedbeds

2  Target for enhancement relates primarily to small interventions along river walls. Enhancement and restoration targets for other habitat types found within the tidal Thames are dealt with separately in the table.

3  Defined as main river by the Environment Agency – includes larger streams and rivers but can include smaller watercourses of local significance.

4  Enhancement includes interventions such as control of invasive species, removal of toe-boarding, etc

5  Increase involves full-scale restoration resulting from de-culverting or reprofiling of the river channel

6  Includes canals

7  Formerly wastelands. The new title reflects UK BAP priority habitat nomenclature. The target for the former wastelands habitat differs from the others as it remains the Mayor’s target, not that of the London Biodiversity partnership and does not seek to protect the whole of the existing habitat resource.185ha is the area of wasteland habitat estimated within the framework of strategic importance for biodiversity set out in paragraph 7.60. This target should be used to inform the redevelopment of brownfield land so that important elements of wasteland habitat are incorporated in development proposals as well as recreating the characteristics of the habitat within the design of new development and public spaces, for example on green roofs (policy 5.11)

Source: GLA 2011

7.61  Development proposals should begin by understanding their wider context and viewing promotion of nature conservation as integral to the scheme not as an ‘add-on’. The indirect impacts of development (eg noise, shading, lighting etc) need to be considered alongside direct impacts (eg habitat loss). New development should improve existing or create new habitats or use design (green roofs, living walls) to enhance biodiversity and provide for its on-going management. Most wildlife habitats are difficult to recreate, accordingly the replacement or relocation of species and habitats should only be a last resort. Access to nature can be an important contributor to people’s health and the Mayor wants to see better access to both existing and new wildlife habitats and has identified priorities to redress areas of deficiency[2].

7.62  The richness of London’s biodiversity is also dependant on private gardens, parks and open spaces and green corridors along canals and railways as well as on the River Thames and its tributaries (Policy 7.29) that allow essential interconnection between London wildlife sites. The network formed by biodiversity sites and the spaces between them will have a significant role in assisting biodiversity to adapt to climate change. Further guidance on this is given in London Climate Change Partnership’s ‘Adapting to Climate Change: creating natural resilience’.  Also Policy 2.18 recognises how green infrastructure can assist in enabling biodiversity to move to adapt effectively to the impacts.

[1] Mayor of London. The Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy- connecting with Nature. GLA 2005

[2]     Mayor of London. Improving Londoners’ Access to Nature. GLA 2008