LI president and others express concern about 'downgrading' of green infrastructure in planning

Green infrastructure has been 'downgraded' in the planning system after a website move obscured relevant guidance, organisations have claimed.

Green infrastructure was key to London 2012 Olympics planning
Green infrastructure was key to London 2012 Olympics planning

The Landscape Institute, the Town and Country Planning Association, Groundwork UK and The Land Trust have all expressed concern about "the disappearance of Green Infrastructure guidance within National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG)" and have written to the Government asking for it to be reinstated.

The guidance was found as a link on the Natural England website. But now Natural England has been brought in under the central .gov website, the guidance has been archived.

LI president Noel Farrer, president of the Landscape Institute, said: "Without proper guidance green infrastructure will effectively become ‘downgraded’ throughout the planning system. This is fundamentally at odds with the Government’s ambition, set out in its Natural Environment White Paper, "to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited".

"We want government to provide us with assurances that this situation with be resolved so that the real potential of green infrastructure can be realised."

A spokeswoman for Natural England said the guidance was still available on the Natural England archive site on She explained that the website was a "pared down" version of the standalone site and was designed to be clearer and simpler so not all the information was moved over.

At the time of writing the latest guidance could be downloaded from the archive site and there is also a direct link to the guidance from the Planning Practice Guidance section of the website.

However concerns remain about its visibility and continuing relevance if it is not kept up-to-date.

The organisations have written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), expressing concern that "without proper, updated green infrastructure guidance within the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) it will carry very little legal weight in the planning process", that the move undermines the ability of users of the NPPG to find up to date, relevant information on green infrastructure and the lack of up-to-date guidance would "hamper efforts to deliver effective, multifunctional green infrastructure on the ground".

A Defra spokeswoman said the change did not affect the requirement to consider green infrastructure in the National Planning Policy Framework and planning guidance.

She added: "Natural England’s development-related guidance is currently under review as part of Defra’s smarter guidance project which seeks to simplify and reduce the amount of guidance offered to make it easier to use.

"A consultation on this topic took place before Christmas, seeking views on the relevance of existing guidance from the development sector.  This is now being acted on.

"Natural England’s Green Infrastructure guidance is currently still available on its publications website and on the archived site. As a rule Gov.UK doesn’t publish best practice advice as organisations outside government can and are often better placed to do so. Defra will do user testing with developers and planners to check that appropriate guidance is available for those needing to take green infrastructure into account." 

Chief executive of The Land Trust Euan Hall and Groundwork chief executive Graham Duxbury, also spoke up for green space, saying it was good for health, the environment and communities.

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