Introduction

As part of their efforts to tackle the on-going biodiversity decline in England, the Government instituted reforms to the planning system which seek to embed ecological sustainability into the strategic planning and development management processes.

Substantive changes have been made to the requirements placed on local planning authorities to plan for nature through the National Planning Policy Framework, which mandates local planning authorities to plan strategically for nature, identifying and mapping ecological networks in order to deliver the protection, enhancement and maintenance of biodiversity.

Ecological networks are the basic, joined up infrastructure of existing and future habitat needed to allow populations of species and habitats to survive in fluctuating conditions. As a short term benefit, a landscape that species can move through easily allows re-colonisation of areas after disturbance events, preventing local extinctions.

In the long term, as our climate begins to change, well connected habitats offer opportunities for populations to move as conditions become more or less suitable. The movement of individuals between populations in a connected landscape maintains genetic diversity which allows populations to adapt to future changes in environmental conditions.