Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 – the first chapter!
22 February 2023
On 31 January 2023, the Government published its first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). This EIP is the first revision of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (24YEP), which was published in 2018. The Environment Act 2021 enshrined into law the completion of the first revision by 31 January of this year, with five yearly reviews thereafter.
By way of reminder, the EIP is anchored to ten goals which aim to achieve positive change for specific themes, including (but not limited to): air, water, seas and estuaries, wildlife, natural resources, resilience, natural beauty and engagement. These goals and targets will all play a part in supporting progress towards the UNs Sustainable Development Goal of improving nature.
The EIP also sets out progress made and how the government proposes to work towards achieving the goals. The document is a substantial one and addresses each goal in detail. Each chapter is further broken down into what has been achieved since the 25YEP was launched, sets out targets and commitments and finally provides a road map to delivering on these targets.
Local authorities will be expected to manage a significant share of obligations, having to hold developers to account on the delivery of 10% biodiversity net gain (from November 2023), the incorporation of sustainable drainage systems (from 2024) and ensuring everyone lives within 15 minutes’ walk of blue or green spaces.
The latter will be supported by the Green Infrastructure Framework which aims to help local authorities and developers create or improve access to these areas. This is not an insignificant target since an estimated 38% of the population do not already live near such spaces.
In a bid to increase biodiversity enhancement and protection, from April this year (ahead of schedule) steps will be taken to roll out Local Nature Recovery Strategies (“LNRS”), which it is suggested must be reflected in local development plans. LNRS will enable LAs to “identify areas to create, enhance and restore habitat and deliver environmental benefits” as well as to map valuable nature habitats.
The commitment to nature recovery and enhancement within the EIP includes express support for farmers. This includes commitments to pay farmers for bringing nature back into their farming practices; peat restoration and biodiverse woodland are examples where government support is up to 80% towards the enhancement of wildlife rich habitat (500,000ha by 2042). The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme will be funding initiatives to restore nature in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The EIP confirms that mandatory biodiversity net gain in association with most new development will become a legal requirement from November 2023. There has been a promise to provide guidance to local authorities during the two year transition period although has yet to be delivered.
Of course, this is just a flavour of what the EIP holds. As the Government progresses with the agenda outlined, we will continue to monitor developments. If you would like to discuss the implications of the EIP further, please do not hesitate to call Deborah Sharples, Edward Long or Jane Haviland of the Planning & Environmental Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at February 2023.