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Gov't 'Environment First'!

There is a free online Planning Portal News service

from which you can select the information you want. It recently drew attention to DEFRA's (Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) new 'Natural Capital Tool' online resource published 22 January 2020 to "guarantee 'better' environmental decision-making”. You can find it online: then type in DEFRA ENCA (enabling a natural capital approach - i.e. recognizing and maximising our natural habitat) in the search bar. At the foot of that page is also a link to BioDiversity. In response to my query re the Council's use of this site in its own planning work, David Hayward, Planning Policy Manager for HBC, emailed me that HBC's PreSubmission Local Plan complies with, amongst other "workstreams", the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Local Nature Partnership for which he passed on this link: He added that HBC still anticipates "there being a need for more guidance to ensure that small scale applications in particular consider ecological impact in the future." It’s important for residents to hold our Councillors to standards that protect our local environment.

Here are DEFRA's and the Environment Minister's own words underlining ENCA's key role in all Council Planning:

"‘Natural capital’ is the sum of our ecosystems, providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards. The natural capital approach will make it easier for public and private organisations to better assess and value the environment. This will help deliver benefits including long-term flood risk reduction, boosts to wildlife, improvements to water and air quality, and opportunities for biodiversity net gain.

The value of the environment and natural capital is routinely understated. For example, the Office for National Statistics estimate that England’s woods and forests deliver a value of services estimated at £2.3 billion annually. Of this figure, only a small proportion – 10% – is in timber values. The rest of the value derives from other more ‘hidden’ benefits to society, such as human recreation and air pollution removal, which improve health, and carbon sequestration which can help combat climate change.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Today’s publication helps to put the natural environment at the heart of decision-making. It meets a commitment from our 25 Year Environment Plan to better incorporate the value of nature – known as natural capital – and the benefits the environment provides to us all.

This comes at a critical time where the protection of our environment is ever-more important in combatting climate change and reversing habitat loss.

The ‘Enabling a Natural Capital Approach’ (ENCA) project delivers on a commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The resource was developed in collaboration with experts from across Defra and its agencies and informed by the work of academic, professional and voluntary bodies such as the Valuing Nature Network, to ensure the best available evidence is included in a user-friendly way. Today’s move will also help support the delivery of Nature Recovery Networks - part of the government’s landmark Environment Bill.

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