Eleni Foui, GiGL Planning Research Officer
A whole year has passed since the “Biodiversity Evidence – Better Outcomes from Planning” project began. The project aims to support London’s Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to achieve better outcomes for biodiversity through the planning process. We started by finding out how biodiversity is currently being taken into account and about the challenges faced. The information collected then informed the production of resources and training for use by LPA planners as guidance when looking into biodiversity matters of development projects.
We are grateful to everyone who responded to our call to participate in the first phase of the project. Representatives from 23 London LPAs shared their views and experiences with us. This included inner and outer London authorities, those with and without in-house ecologists, and both GiGL partner and non-partner organisations. We were also fortunate to receive responses from staff with many different roles within the LPAs. In total there were 39 responses to our questionnaire survey and 31 participants in meetings. Some of the interim results can be found on the project’s webpage and we will be publishing the final project report soon.
Based on the results of the first phase we’ve started producing tailored resources. The first two of these include an overview of policies and legislation, and a compilation of external resources; both focused on the needs of London’s LPAs. During the next few months, we will be looking to produce more resources (we have many more ideas) but also make the existing materials available in more interactive formats.
Although the current pandemic did not allow us to have our planned training events in person, we were able to organise some online training which took place on 23rd September 2020. The overall aim of this London focused event was to raise awareness about why planners need to take biodiversity into account, how they can do so and what are the common pitfalls in relation to biodiversity in planning.
Highlighting the appetite for this kind of training, the event was very popular and over fifty LPA staff registered from 24 LPAs. We were privileged to have a great team of external presenters, all with many years of experience working on biodiversity matters in London. Sessions were delivered and supported by London LPA in-house ecologists, representatives from the Greater London Authority, the Metropolitan Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit and GiGL. The training, which was recorded and will be available online, included:
- an overview of policies and legislation,
- how to use biodiversity data in the development management process,
- common triggers for further ecological investigation,
- best practice and red flags of ecology reports; and
- wildlife law violations related to development projects.
We enjoyed many interesting discussions during the sessions and very positive feedback from the attendees.
This project would not have been possible without the valuable contributions from its advisory group which consists of six borough in-house ecologists, a representative from the Greater London Authority’s Green Infrastructure team and GiGL staff. The original project, which was supported by the Mayor of London, has come to an end, however GiGL is pleased to be able to continue this important work. We plan to produce new resources for planners in London’s LPAs and will update existing guidance going forwards. We are here to support London’s LPAs in achieving better outcomes for biodiversity and are excited to continue the dialogue that this project has started.