Planning reforms – urgent request for help from the BCT – 9Oct20

This important request for help just in from the BCT:


Dear Bat Group member

As you no doubt are aware, the government plans to reform the planning system as laid out by the Planning White Paper in August. Since then there have been a growing number of voices from across the political spectrum who have highlighted the potential dangers these reforms pose to wildlife and environmental protection. We urgently need Somerset Bat Group members to write to your MP and ask them to speak on your behalf in order to make sure these reforms do not undermine bat conservation and wildlife protection.

You can find a template below to make it easier to contact your MP. Please do edit and personalise the letter to reflect your views on this. If you don’t know who your MP is you can find their details here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP  Please remember to include your address details and complete the highlighted sections in your email or letter. Do also let us know if you have contacted your MP, or if you are emailing them copy us in, and share any responses you receive by emailing comms@bats.org.uk.

We will be in touch again soon to share our response to the government consultation on the planning reform which closes on the 29th October (for details see:  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future), and to ask if you would be willing to send a response as a member of the bat group.

If any of your members want to add their name to our campaign list so they can receive communication directly about present and future campaigns to protect and enhance the legal protection to bats and the habitats,  please share this link with them: http://eepurl.com/gGqJDH

Thanks for your help

Joe

Dr. J Nunez-Mino
Bat Conservation Trust
Director of Communications & Fundraising


local Somerset MPS:


TEMPLATE EMAIL OR LETTER:

Dear XXXXXXXXXXX MP

I am writing to you as a member of Somerset Bat Group, who have with 132 members across Somerset, because we are concerned about the proposed changes to the planning system published in the Planning White Paper in August and how this might impact on bats and other wildlife.

Our main concerns are:

  1. The proposals fail to acknowledge and respond to the climate and ecological emergencies and may undermine the ambitions outlined in the Environment Bill.
  2. Proposed changes to the way land is allocated and assessed are likely to accelerate nature’s decline.
  3. Robust and up-to-date environmental data is needed so that planners can make properly informed decisions. Simplifying Environmental Impact Assessments will not help in this matter.
  4. There is potential for new developments to be permitted without proper scrutiny. The changes also do not give me and my local communities a fair say in local planning.

While we recognise the urgent need for more affordable housing, any reform of the planning system needs to be done in a way that is sensitive to the needs of our local community as well as taking into account the impact on the environment and wildlife. There are already pragmatic tools that can help in doing this, such as the Wildlife Assessment Check (https://www.biodiversityinplanning.org/wildlife-assessment-check/) which ensures that wildlife is taken into account at an early stage, thus reducing the risk of delays in the process. This was jointly developed by a partnership of 19 organisations representing the conservation, planning and development sectors.

Bats are an important part of our natural heritage and they play a hugely important role in the environment as nocturnal predators of insects. Some bat species remain endangered, but it is encouraging that the latest data from The National Bat Monitoring Programme shows that some bat populations appear to be stable or increasing following significant historic declines. This is in stark contrast to the findings of the State of Nature 2019 report which found 44% of wildlife species have decreased in the last 10 years. A combination of legislation and education has assisted the partial recovery of some bat species. In the UK, we do not have many conservation stories where we have seen species recovery, but this is one of them.  If reforms are not done sensitively, the government may be in danger of undermining one of the few conservation successes it has been involved with.

The UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook and WWF Living Planet Index published in September 2020 confirmed that, overall, the UK’s wildlife and the natural environment are still in decline. The proposed planning reforms have the potential for continued decline which will in turn impact negatively on all our lives and on the economy. What some may view as red tape is our first line of defence against the destruction of Britain’s precious natural heritage.

It is time to fundamentally rethink planning reform in a constructive and inclusive way so that we protect the local natural spaces that provide habitats for wildlife, including bats, while also benefitting our own health and wellbeing. As our MP please will you write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and raise our concerns with him. It is important that the reforms the government are proposing in the Planning White Paper consider the wishes of constituents like ourselves, who want to live in homes, communities and a country that prioritises people, nature and wildlife long into the future.

Yours sincerely

Your Name

Your Address