Biodiversity, ecology and green infrastructure

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Natural Environment White Paper and Biodiversity Strategy in England challenges both local authorities and ourselves to do more to protect and enhance the natural environment.

Water vole sat on grass Water vole

The definition of open space in the National Planning Policy Framework includes areas of water such as rivers, canals and reservoirs.

Green infrastructure is defined as "a network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities".

Our waterways are a valuable part of the strategic and local green infrastructure network. They also provide an important wildlife route and act as stepping stones for mitigation against habitat loss, dispersal and the genetic exchange of plants. They provide opportunities to enhance biodiversity and ecological resilience.

Example 1 - Wiltshire’s Core Strategy (adopted 2015)

The supporting text to Core Policy 53 Wiltshire’s canals, states that the policy "supports the restoration and improvement of the historic canal network in Wiltshire, which provides considerable opportunities to enhance green infrastructure in the area". The supporting text also goes on to explain the policy position for the navigable Kennet and Avon Canal.

"The Kennet & Avon Canal is a significant asset within Wiltshire’s sustainable transport and green infrastructure network, and the canal’s landscape and natural environment will be protected and enhanced through Core Policies 50 (Biodiversity and Geodiversity), 51 (Landscape) and 52 (Green Infrastructure). There are two existing policies relating to the Kennet & Avon Canal which will continue to be saved until such time as they are replaced by a new core policy addressing the strategic needs of the Kennet & Avon Canal. The relevant saved policies are as follows:

  • West Wiltshire Leisure and Recreation DPD: Policy WR2 (Kennet & Avon)
  • Kennet Local Plan: Policy TR2 (facilities for boat users on the Kennet & Avon Canal)

The British Waterways Conservation Plan for the Kennet and Avon Canal (October 2000) and the Public Transport and Visitor Management Plan for the Kennet and Avon Canal (1999) provide non-statutory guidance on the conservation and management of the canal, and the provision of facilities for management of visitors to the waterway. These documents and any new guidance documents produced by the Canal & River Trust will be treated as material considerations when making decisions on planning applications relating to the canal. As a statutory consultee, great weight will be given to the views of the Canal & River Trust on any planning application which has the potential to have direct or indirect effects upon the canal and its users".

Example 2 - Westminster’s City Plan (adopted 2016)

This includes a policy to protect and improve Westminster’s Blue Ribbon Network.

"The Blue Ribbon Network will be protected and improved by:

  • enhancing biodiversity and waterside habitats
  • protecting and enhancing the character, appearance, heritage and landscape value of the Blue Ribbon Network and its setting
  • enhancing the linear qualities of the Blue Ribbon Network, particularly in relation to heritage, landscape and views, biodiversity, and modes of sustainable transport

and, where it is consistent with these priorities:

  • improving access for pedestrians and cyclists, use for leisure, sport and education especially for local communities
  • water‐based transport

Development alongside the Blue Ribbon Network must address the waterside, with a focus on enhancing the waterside location and improving access to and enjoyment of the waterfront…"

Last date edited: 19 November 2020