CLA has called on Ministers to end the delays to implementing new schemes within the planning system that would require developers to invest in replacing wildlife and other nature lost to new development like housing and infrastructure.
The concept of biodiversity offsetting was subject to significant controversy in 2014 when a number of environmental campaigners reacted angrily to comments about the replacement of ancient woodland by then Secretary of State for Defra Owen Paterson MP. Since that time the schemes have not progressed beyond a small number of pilot areas.
CLA President Ross Murray said: “Ministers have allowed this important policy idea that could deliver significant new investment in nature and the environment, to languish in the long grass for too long.
“Now is the time to get on and ensure that planning departments can meet their objectives of getting the houses, roads and rail we need and at the same time ensure we are unlocking substantial new investment in our natural environment.
“It is time to move past the simplistic arguments about whether ‘offsetting’ is wholly good or wholly bad and instead establish a framework that properly measures the value of our biodiversity and help planning authorities to decide what could be offset and what should not.”
The CLA made this call after Defra made public the conclusions of a long awaited research report into ‘bio-diversity offsetting’ pilot schemes that have been in place in, Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire, Devon, Doncaster, Essex, Greater Norwich.
The report that looked only at the first year of the pilots (2012-13) makes important recommendations about the value of measuring bio-diversity loss in planning and recommends Government co-ordinates the implementation of a standardised approach.
Ross Murray continued: “We know that since this report work has continued in the pilot areas and there have been notable successes in getting bio-diversity offsetting commitments written in to the conditions of planning approvals. However it as all too small scale and fragmented to make the transformational difference we need. It’s time to get on with this and the CLA will continue to push for this to happen.”
The report, Evaluation of the Biodiversity Offsetting pilot phase, was published on 18 January and can be viewed here.