Those working in a planning system despised by (some) conservative politicians and distrusted by (some of) the public can only wonder when the potential of the system to deal with the climate and ecological emergency will be realised - if ever. This quandary arises when considering the potential of planning at the bioregional scale that would imply a systems approach taking into account and integrating human and natural systems. Bioregioning has been around for long enough to have been in and out of fashion several times as frame for understanding the countryside while the UK planning system has continued to plan for the towns their expansion and adaptation. These two operating systems have barely if ever touched, except through my advocacy. I have argued that bioregioning might not have a catchy title but, being essentially based on the scientific collection and analysis of data and the perusal by local people and communities, it does have the potential to build a consensus on how to plan and adapt in response to the climate and ecological emergency.
The Conservative Government (comprising politicians of varying conservatism) has issued a Nature Recovery Green Paper seeking views on how regulation could or should apply to matters arising out of the Environment Act (eg an Office of Environment Protection) and a desire to plant trees to sequester carbon and attract votes. Responses are invited until 11 May and the online survey is at
The existing planning system is based on democratic decison-making (ie by elected councillors sitting in a committee, receiving advice from professional officers, and subject to appeals to the Secretary of State all within a statutory legal framework, having regard to case precedents and supervised by the courts. Why would a responsible Government not build on these foundations by extending powers into changes in and affecting the countryside, rather than continue with the approach that the system is a communist plot that locks up jobs and denies profits to public spirited developers?
In advocating for the adoption of bioregioning as the guiding principle for town AND country planning it is necessary to advocate for planning per se and to point out that there might not be sufficient time to negotiate a path(s) to net zero and biodiversity net gain without a plan.
There are over 30 questions in the consultation (with a number encouraging references to system thinking and ecology). In answer to the question on enforcing wildlife contraventions the principle of stewardship should apply. A council can compulsorily purchase a listed building that is being neglected by an owner. This principle could apply to land where a natural asset is being harmed? The suggestion of prioritising the natural environment above property ownership would set the sparks flying (ie Daily Mail headlines) and no landowner would be unaware of the possible consequences of infringing the law.