The Royal Town Planning Institute on Biodiversity

The RTPI has recently published advice for planners in association with the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, responding to the decline in biodiversity within the UK. The advice outlines obligations and opportunities to promote biodiversity through the UK planning system with multiple examples of its implementation detailed throughout. Going forwards, the emphasis should be on integrating biodiversity into local policy and developments. The document is a must read and provides examples as to what developers can be expected to provide in the near future.

But why does biodiversity needs to be considered within the planning process? To date, the policy of no net loss of biodiversity has been utilised, though seemingly unsuccessfully. Biodiversity has fallen in the UK and thus LPAs need to address legal and policy requirements for biodiversity and take a lead on these issues. Changes in planning policy can actively promote biodiversity enhancements including Biodiversity Net Gain.

Adopting a strategic planning approach is suggested within the guidance, which should be ‘collaborative, ecosystem-based and landscape-scale planning’. The “joined up thinking” approach is nothing new, however is essential to create long lasting and sustainable habitats and ecosystems.

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) need to work collaboratively with other LPAs, and partners, such as through Local Nature Partnerships and Local Biodiversity Partnerships. Examples of this include Berkshire Local Nature Partnerships collaboration with the LPAs to identify areas where there is a greater opportunity for habitat creation and restoration. This will in turn work towards bigger, better and more joined up habitats. Within the north west, the Mersey Forest Partnership involves seven local authorities, landowners, Natural England, and local and national businesses. The partnership manages the Mersey Forest and helps bring benefits to not only wildlife and biodiversity, but the local community and economy.

Developer requirements regarding biodiversity are detailed within the standing advice including the requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain, Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and Ecological Impact Assessments. The Environmental Bill for England now includes a new requirement for ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’. This is now being incorporated into local planning policy and will become mandatory by 2021.

Biodiversity Net Gain is essentially a calculation of the increase in biodiversity on a site as a result of development. An ecological survey is undertaken to establish baseline conditions of the site, and the existing level of biodiversity. The DEFRA metric is then utilised to calculate the difference between value before development, and after development based on landscaping masterplans.

A 10% increase is required for most developments and developers will be expected to maintain any habitat creation or enhancement for a minimum of 30 years. If net gain can’t be achieved on site, offsite compensation may be required.

Currently, not all LPAs request net gain calculations, however planners and developers should be aware that net gain will be mandated by 2021, and in the meantime more and more schemes require net gain. As a responsible developer, all schemes should look to adopt net gain where possible.

E3P keep up to date with local and national policy providing clients with accurate and up to date advice. We are experienced in producing Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments and calculations working with clients to ensure a 10% gain is achieved in a pragmatic manner. We also produce detailed and comprehensive Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, to inform clients on design constraints or further surveys required, and Ecological Impact Assessments to support planning applications.

The following links to the full RTPI Biodiversity in Planning Document:

Good Acoustics Design

E3P prides itself on giving clear, concise and vital advice at any stage of a project. The acoustics team is no different and regularly provide advice on noise and vibration issues and often advise on good acoustic design for residential and commercial projects. Good acoustic design was brought to the forefront of decision making following the adoption of Professional Practice Guidance (ProPG): Planning & Noise in 2017.

Here at E3P we are firm advocates of employing the advice, given in the guidance, at an early stage of the project. Good acoustic design does not merely mean the inclusion of acoustic barriers or façade design, it builds on this and adds a step before these measures are required or negates the need for them altogether. ProPG provides an holistic approach at the design stage so that any noise issues can be dealt with by way of design which can incorporate additional features to further enhance the future soundscape of the development and provide a comfortable and attractive place to live with acoustics considered integral to the living environment.

These design features can include, but not limited to, orientating gardens away from the sound source, siting habitable rooms on the quieter side of dwellings, having site roads lie between the receptors and the sound sources. It is really important that these features, wherever possible, are included in the design to help offset the need for more traditional mitigation measures.

Professional Development Programme

E3P as a multi-disciplinary consultancy, has always placed the training of individuals within the organisation at the forefront of importance due to the wealth of benefits it brings to both the individual and the company including improved employee performance and satisfaction, consistency, increased productivity in addition to opening up opportunities for innovation within the organisation.

Throughout the course of this year, E3P has been working on developing a new Professional Development Programme (PDP) which encompasses all disciplines within the organisation. This PDP structure seeks to create a baseline programme for each technical discipline which an individual will be working towards from their first day of commencing their career with E3P. A separate programme has been created for the Geoenvironmental, Ecology, Acoustics and Air Quality divisions in addition to the administration and support team, providing individuals with a guide as to what they will be working towards in the various stages in their career, allowing goals to be set and motivation to learn and develop to remain high. The programme forms the minimum requirements with individuals being provided with the flexibility to make their career their own, exploring different pathways, dependent on their interests, strengths and weaknesses.

The PDP will also change the way the standard appraisals are undertaken as we find these can often be too generic and do not actually hone into an individual’s training requirements. E3P has created a programme structure which individuals will be audited on yearly, specifically identifying any individuals training requirements or any areas where an individual wishes to explore further and learn. We believe that this is the secret to motivated and focused staff members, as their career path is in their hands for them to make it their own, with their mentors to provide guidance where needed.

Further to the programmes developed for the technical disciplines, a separate programme has been developed to highlight different competencies that an individual in a management position would be required to meet, which again will be used across all disciplines in E3P. These management competencies have been created to include the management of yourself, projects, people, programmes and leading organisations, to ensure that when an individual has been promoted to a position in management, whatever their technical discipline, they develop into a well-rounded manager who will develop into a conscientious leader.