‘Biodiversity offsetting’ is likely to be included into the new NPPF to placate the countryside lobby. This angers me, and this blog by Sally Marsh describes much better than I can why – ”Biodiversity offsetting – just ask for the real thing – proper sustainable development” . Biodiversity offsetting is capable of pushing English planning and landscape policy and management back to a void between people and their place which makes the enclosure acts look positively Marxist.
Landscape cannot be owned, but it belongs to everybody. This is not a political ideal it is a statement of fact from which we can start to look at public participation as an absolute necessity in all land management urban or rural.
Mark Infield’s ‘Feeling Nature’ piece for Mark Avery’s blog argues that conservation is at odds with the economics policy maker’s are currently playing with, but the connection that is sought between conservation – highlighting ‘nature’ issues with the general public in their community does exist in the modern concept of landscape as defined in the European Landscape Convention, where conservation and sustainable development are already integrated into a ready to use tool to help public participation by defining their belonging to their landscape.
But is this why the ELC remains virtually ignored by those ‘experts’ so embedded within the NGO dominated English land management sector, because it places an emphasis on the public and thus threatens a potentially huge new source of financing via planning gains, which is what biodiversity offsetting will allow.
‘Biodiversity offsetting’ allows NGOs and consultants involved to become biodiversity brokers and thus be responsible for destroying landscapes close to the majority of the population, simply to secure future funding for their ‘questionable’ management and to provide yet more waymarkers, interpretation panels and tea towel sales outlets that are now obligatory in England’s PR soaked islands of rural idyll.
Taking money from developers to pay into the ‘gold plated’ land designations owned by land owning ‘conservation’ NGOs, will not be tolerated by the public for very long and as modern communication and social media gathers increasing strength and highlights an axiom to the English general public that the rest of Europe, the rest of the UK even, have progressive land management policy which allows the finances within 21st century sustainable rural economics to start flowing, based on ELC ideals.
It will not be developers who are responsible for creating a ‘guardianship’ of rural landscape that will be as detested by future generations as much as we detest those landowners responsible for the highland clearances. It will be those with the smug arrogance to truly believe that biodiversity is simple enough to price tag and receive payment for, who our children will not forgive.
To consider Landscape in terms of the ELC allows for integration across the spectrum of interests in land management, it allows for a wider platform for sustainable development to include culture and heritage. It is the only way forward, the only platform to be able to disseminate, discuss and debate future policy for rural and urban land management planning, one where nature conservation is a pivotal concern, and using ecosystem services to further understanding of nature across the spectrum of interests as an insurance policy, a way of never forgetting the worth of nature to ourselves.
The true guardians of landscape are those who live, work and look at it and as such the text of ELC at face value is a much better NPPF than one which decides to include the bollocks that is ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’.