Conference puts nature at top of planner’s agenda

© Scotscape

Surrey Nature Partnership supported by Surrey Wildlife Trust held its inaugural Biodiversity & Planning Conference in February at the Dorking Halls in Surrey.

More than 120 environmental experts and planning officers from Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire attended and shared best practice in environmental planning to ensure nature’s recovery is a top priority.

A range of professionals attended, including local authority planning officers, ecological consultants, wildlife specialists, academics and landscape architects. Speakers presented big picture planning and environmental legislation change, the role of the ecological consultant in new developments and specialist wildlife advice on bats and newts.  The conference also showcased examples of nature’s recovery on mineral extraction sites and in urban development projects.

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The ultimate goal would be to achieve biodiversity net gain in every planning application in the county. This would mean every new development will improve nature for wildlife. While net gain will be mandatory in two years, there is an urgency to make those changes now. With a robust method of measuring net gain, the new law will be a game changer for nature’s recovery.’

Tracey Haskins from Woking Borough Council presented the Natural Woking strategy, demonstrating that Woking has embedded the concept of nature recovery networks into everything it does. Scotscape spoke about the role of green infrastructure in net gain and the effectiveness of green walls and roof installations in creating green corridors for wildlife to thrive and move through urban areas.

Lisa Creaye-Griffin, Director of Surrey Nature Partnership, said: ‘Planners and consultants have different roles to play in nature’s recovery and I was impressed by their enthusiasm to work together. There was a real networking buzz. Surrey Nature Partnership wants to facilitate nature’s recovery by influencing policy makers, working in partnership with planners and developers to deliver a Nature Recovery Network for nature to thrive in Surrey.’

Surrey Wildlife Trust has already designated special areas for focusing their work, ‘Biodiversity Opportunity Areas’, which are recognised as priority areas for wildlife. This is a prime example, cited as best practice in the Environment Bill currently going through parliament, of how net gain and green networks can be implemented on the ground.

For further information about the conference and to register interest for the 2021 Biodiversity & Planning Conference