Policy work is so often a long game. So it is always uplifting when things go the right way. That’s what happened earlier this month with the Scottish Government’s publication of the consolidated Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).
Two years ago the then new SNP administration at the Scottish Government decided to shake up the planning policy review that was already underway. They announced that the existing 20-odd policy statements on all areas of planning would be pulled together into just one consolidated document that would remove the accompanying guidance to planners and only state the Government’s existing policy. Very little would change, we were told, and it would be easier to understand.
The Woodland Trust Scotland had grave concerns about removing the guidance that accompanied the policy statements because by doing so the context of the remaining policy and how you interpret it is changed. Over the course of the last year we have been continually involved in the consultation process and haven’t pulled back from being critical of the drafts we have seen.
However, from a sustainable development and trees and woodland perspective, what came out in the end was much improved. There were a number of good paragraphs but paras 146-148 are particularly pleasing. In fact I don’t think we could have hoped for a better start to the Trees and Woodland section:
“Ancient and semi-natural woodland is an important and irreplaceable national resource that should be protected and enhanced, as should other native and long established woodlands with high nature conservation value.”
And it goes on to say:
“Woodland of high nature conservation value should be identified in development plans along with relevant policies for its protection and enhancement.”
The importance of individual trees is also recognised:
“Other woodlands, hedgerows and individual trees, especially veteran trees, may also have significant biodiversity value and make a significant contribution to landscape character and quality so should be protected from adverse impacts resulting from development.”
And so are habitat networks and native woodland creation:
“If a development would result in the severing or impairment of connectivity between important woodland habitats, workable mitigation measures should be identified and implemented, potentially linked to the creation of green networks. Where appropriate planning authorities should seek opportunities for new woodland creation and planting of native species in connection with development schemes.”
Good things come to those who wait! But we keep on nagging just in case…