Preserving and enhancing England's most valuable habitats is at the centre of new planning advice currently being issued to local authorities.
The Government believes that local authorities across the country can embrace biodiversity and geological conservation through a sensible and practical approach to local planning and development issues.
Published jointly by Defra and English Nature the new guide sets out examples of good practice that should be followed when considering planning issues within protected areas, such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Also covered are legal requirements and specific instances of habitats and wildlife that receive statutory protection under either UK or international law.
At the heart of the advice is a belief by Ministers that the planning system can, and should, support the protection of England's natural heritage.
Launching the guide, Housing and Planning Minister, Baroness Kay Andrews said: "It's critically important that we protect our natural heritage for future generations.
Whilst we need to provide new homes and expand communities, we must also ensure precious habitats such as ancient woodlands, heaths and rivers are not lost. Our planning system has a vital role to play and we want to support local planners make the right decisions about often fragile environments.
"Through our new planning policy, we have already stepped up the protection of such habitats. This new guide offers advice to local authorities on how to put this policy into practice on the ground. I am confident planners across the country will use this guide which will help ensure we protect the environment for years to come."