Applying a Natural Capital approach to planning policy and the growth agenda in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc
Natural Capital & Ecosystem Assessment Pilot Project
After creating a Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services evidence base for the Local Natural Capital Plan we turned our attention to how we can use such evidence to influence planning. Early on in the creation of the LNCP, our stakeholders identified that the key to embedding a natural capital approach within the OxCam Arc was to target the planning system, because new development needs to go through that system. However, when we started conversations with local planners it was difficult because we were talking about a concept, without an evidence base which we could share to help provide substance. Once the LNCP’s evidence base was created, we were in a better position to have informed conversations around natural capital/ecosystems services data with plan makers, because we had examples we could share. This coincided with many local authorities also increasing their natural capital evidence base over the same period.
The Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment fund, from DEFRA, provided us with an opportunity to use specialist consultants to investigate how Natural Capital evidence and approaches were currently being used (or could be used) in plan making across the OxCam Arc. We split the work into 5 distinct work packages:
We split the work into 5 distinct work packages:
- Strategic / Arc Level
- County/ Local Authority
- Neighbourhood Plan level
- Masterplan Level
- Review of the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper
The key aims of the project were to:
- Identify the difference(s) applying a Natural Capital Approach can make to policy making
- Investigate how a Natural Capital and Ecosystems Services (NCES) evidence base has been applied to planning policy making
- Identify what could be put in place to allow a Natural Capital approach to be taken forward more widely in the future
- To test the use of NCES data in the creation of planning policy
The study has shown us that amongst plan makers there is a high level of support for adopting a natural capital approach in planning, and it can be used as an evolution from the green infrastructure approach. The information that the natural capital approach provides also supports better and more informed decision making around site selection, site designations, and the development of new Natural Capital/environmental planning policies.