The Institute of Foresters have just met with their Royal Town Planning counterparts at a seminar to discuss what they could do for each other. I went as an adviser to the National Forest Garden Scheme to see whether forest gardening, permaculture, agroforestry or agro-ecology was part of what arboriculturalists do or talk about. It seems that they are most concerned about structural landscaping; the impact that existing and new larger trees have on ‘amenity’, in townscapes and or landscapes. Ecology and biodiversity barely got a mention.
The planners in the audience might have been aware of the not uncommon practice of imposing conditions on planning permissions requiring the submission of travel plans that, in turn, require the appointment of a travel adviser to help the new residents embrace low carbon travel behaviours. This could be through providing bus/train timetables, car pooling or car clubs, useful web sites, footpath maps, bicycle repair manuals or classes or even discounts on new bikes.
Following that model a condition could be imposed securing the appointment of a horticultural (preferably a permaculturalist) adviser seeking to enabling new residents to enhance the biodiversity and food growing potential of the area. The adviser could help with recommending how the landscaping of public areas might be maintained and go on to suggest planting schemes and practices in private gardens, taking into account matters of soil types and aspect. Fruit trees could be chosen to increase fertility. Screening could be minimized. Bee friendly plants maximized. The most could be made of what are likely to be quite restricted garden areas. A tool sharing scheme could be established (greenhouses, mowers, strimmers, trimmers and even spades and forks). Seed buying could be another saving. Some householders could specialize in vegetables, others in flowers and others with children’s play and gardening club(s) could be established.
This idea fell on deaf ears. Whilst such advice might be seen as intrusive and unwelcome to some new residents, this attempt at sharing skills, knowledge and kit could be attractive to others and could have a significant impact on household expenditure and the biodiversity of the estate.
That brings me on to para 118 of the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework which requires developments to conserve and enhance biodiversity. The imposition of a condition requiring developers to appoint horticultural advisers would be entirely consistent with that paragraph, that will hopefully survive the changes to the NPPF currently being considered.