Biodiversity Accounting is the idea that developers should contribute to biodiversity and that there should be a biodiversity net gain from development. The forthcoming Environment Bill is likely to require that all developments create a 10% increase in biodiversity value.
The Society has recently responded to a consultation on a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) by Buckinghamshire County Council, which sets out how the Council propose to implement biodiversity net gain locally. Whilst we support the idea in principle, we have raised a number of concerns, including the following –
- Buckinghamshire should go for a higher percentage, say 20%, because it contains large parts of the Chilterns, including the AONB, and is one of the national pilot projects for the establishment of Nature Recovery Networks.
- There is scope to actively manage the Green Belt for biodiversity, creating a valuable green asset as well as keeping land free of development.
- The SPD must make it very clear that net gain must be provided on site unless there are exceptional circumstances for an off-site contribution. Otherwise, the Council may be in the situation where developers simply buy their way out of biodiversity responsibilities.
- The proposed potential exemption of schemes on viability grounds is not acceptable as it may enable developers to avoid providing for net gain.
- The assessment methodology needs to guard against deliberate or incidental loss of value occurring in the run-up to the submitted assessment, due to either neglect or damaging interventions.
- In many cases there could be an on-site loss of biodiversity and then a time lag before the compensatory habitats have been created and become established.
- The SPD needs to specifically recognise potential river impacts in relation to the Chilterns chalk streams.
You can read the full response here.