Housing White Paper – Implications for Protected Species

February 8th, 2017

The Government has just published their housing white paper  ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, which sets out their plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes.

Amongst other things, the paper briefly discusses the Government’s intention to pursue a strategic approach to the habitat management of protected species. On page 40 of the document it states:

House-builders have identified the licensing system for protected species such as great crested newts as a significant impediment to timely housing delivery. Natural England and Woking Borough Council have piloted a new strategic approach which streamlines the licensing system for managing great crested newts – the species which particularly affects development. The Government will roll out this approach to help other local authorities speed up the delivery of housing and other development“.

This development has been widely expected within the industry. Natural England have been quick to announce that they have funding for the roll out and that this work will begin with a three year programme to survey areas where newts are most prevalent and to propose local conservation strategies for the species. Natural England’s chairman, Andrew Sells, said:

“… the strategic approach to licensing helps developers to avoid costs and delays to their projects. The roll-out is key to helping us ensure that regulation better serves both the natural environment and the economy.”

Further support for this approach has been forthcoming from The Wildlife Trusts, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Conservation Management (CIEEM).

Clearly, this shift in policy is of keen interest to developers. It is understood that there are 20 authorities working with Natural England in 2017 to explore and develop a strategic strategy, with 65 authorities expected to participate in 2018 and a further 65 in 2019. At the end of this this three year period there should be c.150 authorities involved, although it is not clear how quickly their local/sub-regional approaches will crystallise or indeed how these may vary from place to place.

So the ‘roll-out’ will take time to occur and whilst the direction of travel is clear, we’d suggest our clients don’t get too excited too soon by this new approach; certainly the usual process will apply in 2017 and we would encourage clients not to delay surveys or licence applications.