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Natural England unveils new hubs to handle land use consultations

Natural England recently announced the launch of a new approach to responding to planning consultations which offers a more consistent, quick and efficient service to our customers.

To enhance its customer service, Natural England has set up a new system in which the planning consultations it handles are received via a central email address, replacing the old postal application system directed to local offices.

Underpinning the new service are two newly established hubs – based in Crewe and Worcester – in which we expect staff to process around 20,000 consultations in the first year. The remaining cases, about 50 per cent of the total to start with, which require more detailed engagement, will be dealt with by specialist advisors. The new central hub system was successfully piloted in the South East last year before being rolled out across the country this month.

Alan Law, Natural England’s Director of Land Use, said: “We believe that these changes will allow us to provide a more consistent, quick and efficient service to our customers. We will have a rapid response team able to turn around straight forward consultations quickly, whilst retaining local knowledge and the experience of specialist advisors to deal with the more complicated applications.”

Natural England is hoping the majority of cases will be submitted electronically for ease of handling and tracking. Where this is not possible customers are asked to contact 0300 060 3900 to discuss how and where to send their planning application.

In making their initial application to Natural England, customers are also asked to specify which aspect of their proposal they are seeking Natural England’s advice on – as well as the timetable they are working to and the sites the case relates to. This information will help ensure that cases are dealt with as efficiently as possible. For more information on the new system please visit our website

Notes to Editors:

Land use consultations fall into two categories, statutory and non statutory. Statutory casework consists of consultations from Public Bodies, which include District, City and County Councils, the Environment Agency, and the Highways Agency. Non statutory casework consists of consultations/queries from consultants, members of the public. Natural England’s role, as a statutory consultee for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) means that if an LPA considers that a planning application is likely to have an effect on statutorily designated protected habitats and landscapes they are required to ask for our advice on the application. They also have a duty to seek our advice on protected species matters.

The new hubs have been set up to deal with the following categories of land use consultations:

Local Authority land use consultations Development Management

Planning Applications (with or without EIAs) following existing protocols for consultation and including pre-application advice, discharge of conditions and reserved matters approval where relevant. Spatial and Community development plans, guidance and strategies

  • Contaminated land strategies

  • Countryside Strategies

  • Employment Land Reviews

  • Green Infrastructure Strategies

  • Green space audit / PPG17 studies

  • Health Impact Assessments

  • Infrastructure Delivery Plans

  • Local Air Quality Strategies

  • Local Area Agreements

  • Local Development Frameworks*

  • Local Economic Assessments

  • Local Nature Reserve Declarations (S21(6) National Parks (etc.) Act (1949)

  • Local Nature Reserve Proposals (S21(6) National Parks (etc.) Act (1949)

  • Local Transport Plans 16 Local Wildlife Site proposals

  • Rights of Way Improvement Plans

  • Shoreline Management Plans

  • Site Allocation Maps

  • Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessments

  • Surface Water Management Plans

  • Sustainable Community Strategies

  • Validation Checklists for planning applications

  • Water & Coastal Plans & Consultations

  • Water Resource Management Plans

Environmental protection, permission, permit, licenses orders

  • Analysis and Monitoring of Priority Substances

  • Ancient Woodland Inventories

  • Commons Act 2006 permissions

  • Conditional prohibition notices

  • Emergency Activities Orders

  • Freedom of Information / Data Protection / Environmental Inform

  • Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (Local Authority)

  • IPPC/EPR Authorised Discharge to Sewers

  • IPPC/EPR Permits

  • Operator and Pollution Risk Appraisals

  • Waste Management Exemptions

  • Waste Management Licences

  • Water Resource Management Plans

Habitats Regulations

  • Regulation 102 Advice (appropriate assessment for land use plans)

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

  • SSSI Advice

Environmental Plans

  • Sustainability Appraisals

  • Strategic Environmental Assessments

  • Integrated Sustainability Appraisals

* Area Action Plans, Core Strategies, Development Plan Documents, Evidence Bases, Local Development Schemes, Minerals Plans, Statements of Community Involvement, Supplementary Planning Documents, Sustainability Appraisals, Waste Plans.

About Natural England

 Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

  • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

  • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.

  • We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.

  • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.

  • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

For further information contact: Heather Duncan on 07919 228388,, or if calling out of hours 07970 098005. For further information about Natural England please visit:

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