Spatial planning and making the most of the environment as an asset

This page provides a starting point for planning professionals interested in what the current thinking about managing the environment as an asset might mean for their work. See also our pages on green infrastructure and natural capital accounting.

Policy provision

  • The 2016 Land Use Strategy for Scotland sets out principles for sustainable land use that involve consideration of the multiple benefits that the environment provides for society. 
  • The Environment Act in Wales, which became law in 2016, includes area-based approach for natural resource management that is intended to provide an improved evidence base for planners in local authorities who are forming Local Development Plans.
  • The National Planning Policy Framework for England, which was published by HM Government in March 2012, makes explicit reference to the need for the planning system to protect ecosystem services.  Ecosystem services refers to the array of benefits that the environment provides for people, from flood risk reduction to improvements in mental health.  Several Local Plans processes in England have made use of the ecosystem service concept, including the plan for North Devon and Torridge, as well as the plans being made for the South Downs National Park.

Principles and guidance for best practice

  • At the RTPI Planning Convention in July 2013, RSPB launched its 'Planning Naturally', report. This sets out 12 principles of good spatial planning, illustrating them with case studies from around the UK.
  • RTPI has produced a briefing on green infrastructure in the UK. The term 'green infrastructure' refers to the networks of natural and semin-natural features (woodland, public parks, rivers etc) that are the source of environmental benefits enjoyed by people. 

Learning materials

​Environmental assessment

  • This is a important emerging area of practice in impact assessment. Consideration of ecosystem services can help at all stages of the process of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal. 
  • A 'step by step' method developed by the World Resources Institute provides general guidance on how to incorporate ecosystem service thinking into EIA processes around the world. Collingwood Environmental Planning and the Ecosystems Knowledge Network offer training on this topic (the last course took place in June 2017).