The Environment Bill will create a duty on Ministers to have regard to key environmental principles when making policy. Consultation of the draft principles is currently underway, see Draft Environmental Principles Policy Statement (defra.gov.uk) for more information.
The drafts sets out five key principles:
–Integration – seizing opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy that have impacts on the environment.
–Prevention – aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate environmental harm.
–Rectification at source – if damage to the environment cannot be prevented it should be tackled at its origin.
–Polluter pays – those who cause pollution or damage to the environment should be responsible for mitigation or compensation.
–Precautionary principle – where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
As the integration principle suggests, this is about far more than development and planning. However, it will influence future revisions to the NPPF, as well as other national policy documents. It will filter down into Development Plan documents and supplementary planning documents. Brett Spiller, Director of Chapman Lily Planning explained ‘we are already seeing the principles manifested in Natural England’s advice on Local Plan preparation, particularly in respect of Biodiversity Net Gain. Interestingly the draft enshrines the ‘precautionary principle’ something that we practitioners tend to associate with the Habitats Regulations. It also talks about a ‘proportionality’, which is of course open to interpretation and in my experience is open to manipulation by regulatory authorities to suite their own ends, with the bar more often or not been set high for private promoters and developers! There are many parties with a vested interest in the environmental economy, so those in the development industry need to engage too.’