The Government has launched a white paper outlining its vision for the natural environment over the next 50 years.
The White Paper states that the planning system has a key role to play in securing a sustainable future. Protection and improvement of the natural environment will remain core objectives for local planning and development management but a more strategic and integrated approach to planning is required to guide development to the best locations and encourage greener design.
What this means for developers…
Local authorities will be encouraged to promote multi-functional development to get the most from land. Biodiversity off-setting has been identified by the Government as a potentially effective means of delivering planning policy requirements for compensation of biodiversity loss. It is most applicable to those developments that still result in some biodiversity loss when there are impacts that cannot be avoided though design and location, or mitigated by other means.
Biodiversity off-setting pilots are being run over 2 years starting in April 2012 and the Government are looking for sites that could form part of these trials.
The principals of biodiversity off-setting are:
• There should be no change to existing levels of protection for biodiversity
• Real benefits for biodiversity should be delivered by:
- seeking to improve the effectiveness of managing compensation for biodiversity loss
- expanding and restoring habitats, not merely protecting the extent and condition of what is already there
- using offsets to contribute to enhancing England’s ecological network by creating more, bigger, better and joined areas for biodiversity
- providing additionality; not being used to deliver something that would have happened anyway
- creating habitat which lasts in perpetuity
- being at the bottom of the mitigation hierarchy, and requiring avoidance and mitigation of impacts to take place first
• They should be managed at the local level as far as possible:
- within national priorities for managing England’s biodiversity
- within a standard framework, which provides a level of consistency for all involved
- through partnerships at a level that makes sense spatially, such as county level, catchment or natural area
- with the right level of national support and guidance to build capacity where it is needed
- involving local communities
- they should be as simple and straightforward as possible, for developers, local authorities and others
- they should be transparent, giving clarity on how the offset calculations are derived and allowing people to see how offset resources are being used
- they should be good value for money