The NEP actively engages with local planning issues as well as with regional, national or infrastructure planning issues and other consultations that affect Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes and which relates to our priorities for the environment in the NEP area.
Over the past few years, the NEP has successfully asked for our area’s Local Plans to include policy commitments to require biodiversity net gain (BNG) as a result of development, and has designed a system to support and bring that commitment into operation. We have since worked extensively with our partners to bring forward an option for developers to ensure local strategic biodiversity priorities are met as part of that overall BNG commitment where offsetting is required, bringing in experience and expertise from Warwickshire County Council, which operates a similar scheme. Most recently we have been working intensively with Buckinghamshire Council to prepare to bring this into effect.
Using our experience so far, the NEP has responded to the Government’s 2022 consultation on the proposals for the regulations and implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain. Whilst we continue to support a system to require a minimum 10% net biodiversity gain, we are concerned about a number of the Government’s proposals, some of which could limit the benefit for biodiversity as well as risk effectively undoing the extensive work we have carried out over the last few years. We remain hopeful for further dialogue and policy development within Government to allow the scheme we have designed collectively to be provided as a one-stop shop option for developers locally while also meeting strategic biodiversity priorities and needs.Our full response is available here.
Taking the experience from the NEP’s steering group role in the Buckinghamshire Pilot LNRS work, the NEP responded to the Government’s consultation on “how to prepare and what to include” in upcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategies. We responded to the specific questions as well as made several key points – including the need for sufficient resourcing (capacity, skills, funding, timescales), ensuring data availability, the need for cross-border working and policy integration for delivering LNRSs, and highlighting the important contribution and role of Local Nature Partnerships in supporting the production of the strategies, coordinating their delivery and monitoring their impact.
The NEP has also responded formally to the Buckinghamshire LNRS pilot, click here for more information.
The NEP’s response centred on the need for any Vision for the OxCam Arc to embed the agreed Growth Arc Environmental Principles (prepared by the Arc Environment Working Group and endorsed by the Arc Leaders, Universities and LEPs) to help achieve the ambitions and aspirational vision suggested in the consultation. The NEP suggested that these principles should form the basis of the vision and should be used to shape broader plans for the Arc including any Spatial Strategy. We also commented on the related Sustainability Appraisal scoping document.
The NEP has engaged with all of our Local Authority partners to suggest appropriate content in their Local Plans, particularly related to biodiversity and green infrastructure.
We created and sent a “standard checklist response” to all local authorities across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes at the Issues and Options stage of their Local Plans. This set out the NEP’s expectations for Green Infrastructure, Biodiversity, Water, Energy and Business.Standard NEP Checklist Response to Local Plans
Since the standard response, we have been working with each Local Authority separately and have provided bespoke requests and engagement to encourage the best possible outcome for the environment of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes in local planning, aligned to the NEP’s priorities, strategies and work – including the NEP’s Biodiversity Action Plan, Energy Strategy [external link] and (more recently) the NEP’s Vision and Principles for the Improvement of Green Infrastructure and evolving work on biodiversity accounting. We have also provided bespoke written statements and attended relevant hearings related to the 2018 Inspector examination processes for draft Local Plans in Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale and Wycombe.
We have also recently been involved with other local environmental stakeholders in engaging with the Aylesbury Garden Town discussions.
The NEP has responded formally to the following consultations:
In December 2018 we responded to EWR’s Further Environmental Information on the Network Rail East West Rail Transport for Works Act Order. We objected on the grounds that powers to ensure net biodiversity gain were not being sought by the Order despite an overall predicted project loss in biodiversity on all route section, and national policy requirements for net biodiversity gains.
The NEP will continue to respond to relevant consultations and work with our Local Authority Partners to encourage alignment to the NEP’s strategic aims for the environment of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.