Smarter Guidance and Changes to NPPF

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MCIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 30/09/2013

When it comes to the environment, regulations are important in order to make sure that local environments are properly protected however they can be complicated and contradictory. To address this, Smarter Guidance is being developed by Defra to cover various environmental issues including:

  • Wildlife protection
  • Environmental management
  • Sustainability and energy efficiency
  • General environmental rules (eg noise pollution, air emissions etc)


The aim of this guidance is to simplify the 400 documents that add up to around 6000 pages of information currently available on wildlife protection, as a lot of this documentation includes duplicate and out of date information, making it very frustrating for businesses and developers to make sense of.

Smarter Guidance is reviewing this information and asking for feedback on how various topics fit together. There has also been a desire to use a more “plain English” and condensed approach so that people looking for information can find it easier to understand and interpret. One recent example of plain English guidance relates to the National Planning Policy Guidance compiled to provide updated guidance and information on how the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is being implemented.

Key changes to the NPPF include the aim to ensure that schemes achieve a net gain for biodiversity, which moves away from the previous ‘no net loss’ objective. The NPPF also states that the core principle for planning is that it should contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment. Green infrastructure and local ecological networks are also a key principle of the NPPF and a key consideration for planning authorities. This is in line with the Biodiversity 2020 aims and objectives.

The crucial thing to emphasise is that Smarter Guidance is purely about how the information is presented. It will not result in any changes to the law and there is still a clear commitment to biodiversity and environmental protection. However it is hoped that with easier to access information more people will engage with the topic and help improve the environment on a local and national level as well as making it easier for businesses to comply with the relevant rules and regulations. The aim of simplifying the guidance is to ensure that biodiversity aims and objectives are met and improved in the long-term.