Planning had initially been declined on the development in Thaxted of up to 47 dwellings on ecological grounds, due to the loss of species-rich unimproved grassland and the impact on common lizard habitat. The developer was struggling to identify an appropriate offsetting site, despite the involvement of the market leading broker for environmental crediting.
Bidwells were instructed to find an appropriate offsetting site and prepare evidence that would be used by the appellant at Public Inquiry, to show that the active management of the donor ‘Offsetting’ site would result in a sustainable net biodiversity gain.
Biodiversity offsetting provides a new mechanism for quantifying the loss of biodiversity on a proposed development site and the possible gain from an offsite mitigation.
What we did
- Bidwells undertook site searches using various GIS datasets (habitat inventories, ownership records, environmental stewardship coverage, site designations etc.) to determine the most cost effective location to create the necessary credits. A framework of metrics for assessing biodiversity gain and loss under the offsetting regime was considered, and potential sites ranked in terms of ecological and financial suitability.
- Potential offsetting sites were found on nearby farms, where suitable management could improve the quality of the grassland to create MG5 neutral lowland grassland. The sites were surveyed, soils tested and existing management regimes and business structures reviewed.
- Terms were negotiated with the owner of one site to secure a contract for the long-term management, utilising a novel suite of legal agreements which delivered significant savings over the use of a national broker.
- Bidwells presented evidence at the Public Inquiry regarding the ecological advantages of offsetting the biodiversity loss on the appeal site. The Offsetting site was shown to be better suited to longterm restoration and conservation of MG5 grassland, due to its scale and location.
- Following the evidence presented at the Public Inquiry, the Planning Authority agreed that the proposed 25-year management and safeguarding plan for the Offsetting Site would “provide a suitable habitat for the common lizard and would provide a grassland of greater value and size than the appeal site does or could” adding that “the proposal would not have any unacceptable effects on biodiversity when taken as a whole, and would enhance it.” The planning refusal was overturned and the development received planning consent, subject to the proposed ecological offsetting.
- Acting for the appellants, Bidwells were instrumental in identifying an appropriate site and agreeing a suite of documents with the landowner, developer and local planning authority to ensure delivery of management and ecological monitoring over a 25-year period.
- This represented a new approach to Biodiversity Offsetting arrangements, paving the way for future schemes to create more bespoke management and offsetting arrangements, avoiding the need for a costly long-term commitment to a credit brokers’ fees.
- Planning consent secured.
- More cost effective offset site identified than would have been likely using the traditional broker crediting system.
- Long term enhancement of ecological potential, compared to the appeal site.
- Development of a unique approach to managing biodiversity offsetting schemes using novel legal agreements and management plans.
- Bidwells exploited technology and access to GIS datasets with their expertise in land management, planning, and ecology to ensure the most appropriate site was selected and appropriate contractual terms secured.
biodiversity offsetting site