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Planning for biodiversity

Biodiversity is a key element that needs to be considered in many planning systems.

River basin management planning (RBMP)

Through RBMP we work with our partners to identify, prioritise and deliver biodiversity enhancement and protection of the water environment. The Land Use Strategy  and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy  call for a more integrated approach to land and water management across whole catchments and provide us with the opportunity to integrate biodiversity objectives into wider water management objectives. SEPA’s Water Environment Fund supports projects to improve the physical condition of the water environment, restoring important habitats and delivering benefits for biodiversity.

Flood risk management planning

Our responsibilities under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009  present us with the opportunity to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem objectives into the flood risk management process. Natural flood management measures that may benefit biodiversity include creation of more natural landscapes and restoration of functional wetlands, floodplains and associated habitats.

Land use planning 

We provide formal environmental advice on development proposals across Scotland.

As a statutory consultee we influence development planning and development management decisions on land, making sure that development does not take place in environmentally sensitive locations. There is a duty on SEPA to further the conservation of biodiversity, and specific duties with regard to habitats dependent upon the water environment. When consulted on planning applications, we also advise on the protection and enhancement of habitats which we have identified as being sensitive to processes that we regulate. SEPA provide advice on the protection and enhancement of all aspects of the water environment, e.g. presumptions against culverting of water courses, removal of existing culverts and fish barriers, re-naturalisation of watercourses, including buffer strips in design to benefit biodiversity.

Our planning advice directs any effects away from wetlands where appropriate; for example, avoiding developments on peat that could affect the water environment or result in large volumes of excavated peat. A Phase 1 habitat survey (informed by the Scottish Functional Wetland Typology ) should be carried out and the resulting maps submitted to SEPA wherever the proposed activity is likely to affect wetland habitats. We work together with industry and have written best practice guidance that reduces environmental effects of hydropower and wind farms during the development stage.

Green infrastructure and  green networks

SEPA will promote green infrastructure and its additional benefits for biodiversity (and amenity) through its provision of advice to the planning system, and through its roles within river basin and flood risk management.

  • Green infrastructure is the use of green spaces, engineered habitats and water features to deliver environmental, health and wellbeing benefits in the urban environment. It can provide services such as sustainable drainage, pollutant mitigation, safer travel routes, noise reduction, and improved wildlife habitats. It also contributes to wider green networks, which aim to achieve multiple objectives, improving the environment for people and creating attractive places to work and live.
  • Green networks make an increasingly important contribution in helping Scotland’s wildlife better adapt to climate change, and to improving connectedness between fragmented habitats.