Defra has responsibility for policy on national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs), while oversight of the planning system and green belt protections are the policy responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government. a) The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear that most types of new development in green belt are inappropriate, and should only be approved in very special circumstances. The Government published further guidance in October 2014, which reaffirmed the need to consider green belt protection when developing local plans. Policy also encourages the use of brownfield sites for development. b) A quarter of England is protected as national park or AONB, recognising the importance of conserving and enhancing our finest landscapes, their culture and heritage; and the contribution our beautiful countryside makes to the nation’s prosperity and well-being. The NPPF contains strong planning policies to maintain the protection of these landscapes on the nation’s behalf. These policies provide national parks, the Broads and AONBs with the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.
SSSIs are protected both by legislation and through the NPPF. Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) sets out provisions regarding the notification, protection and management of SSSIs, and requires authorities to take steps to further the conservation of SSSIs. The NPPF provides strong protection for SSSIs and for other environmental designations. It also directs planning authorities to give consideration to the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in their decision making.
Existing protections for the green belt, for our national parks, and for other environmental designations are robust and this Government is committed to maintaining that protection.