Dartford warbler, Arne RSPB reserve, Dorset

The RSPB and planning

New development can have a damaging effect on birds, other wildlife and the environment.

Damaging developments

New development can have a damaging effect on birds, other wildlife and the environment.

This was the case for a proposed housing and business park development in Berkshire, which threatened an internationally important heathland.

We feared the housing adjacent to the heathland could place intolerable pressures on its special wildlife, including Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlarks. Disturbance by people walking dogs would have been a particular problem for ground-nesting birds. The application was refused after a public inquiry.

Damaging developments tend to be the result of an ineffective planning system. They also take place when planning policies do not give sufficient weight to the environment or are poorly implemented.

Major development projects that pursue economic growth at all costs can also cause environmental damage. Usually problems arise when public authorities do not integrate environmental concerns into the decision-making process properly.

We're working to create a positive planning system

In the UK, decision-making is complicated by the fact that there are different planning systems in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We lobby government in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast to make sure UK planning systems and policies protect the environment and promote development that is truly sustainable. For recent updates, see the latest news and campaigns page, or for more in-depth coverage, visit our planning reform section.

We promote good practice amongst local planning authorities, emphasising planning for biodiversity and environmental assessment techniques. At a regional and local level in the UK, we comment on plans and individual projects which may have significant effects on birds and biodiversity.

If necessary, we will fight our case at public inquiries, as in the case of the housing development in Berkshire. It was refused permission in 2009 after a five-week public inquiry. For more details about saving special places, check out our Casework page.

In extreme circumstances, we will take our case to the courts. Our preference, however, is for a positive planning system that results in the right development, in the right place, at the right time.

Nightjar on ground among heather