Biodiversity and planning
The council works to protect and enhance biodiversity through the land use planning system to help ensure our local environment is better protected for future generations.
The council’s local plan only permits development where it protects trees, habitats and the landscape. In addition, it seeks to increase the overall biodiversity, a process known as biodiversity net gain (BNG). BNG is an approach which aims to leave biodiversity in a measurably better state than before a proposed development goes ahead. Where the development of land will lead to losses of biodiversity, developers can pay to create habitat of equal or greater value to wildlife. This is called biodiversity offsetting and is a key mechanism to deliver biodiversity net gain.
The council pioneered BNG in 2013 by introducing the first successful biodiversity offsetting agreement in the UK. Since then, the council along with Vale of White Horse District Council, has raised more than £850,000 towards off site biodiversity gains, in addition to increased biodiversity achieved on development sites.
The councils are currently preparing a new Joint Local Plan which aims to new ambitious targets for BNG in line with the new requirements of the Environment Act 2021.
Neighbourhood plans and nature
Neighbourhood plans offer an opportunity for communities to improve their local environment for wildlife and people. Having nature protection and enhancement as an integral part of a neighbourhood plan can also help to manage environmental risk and improve resilience to climate change.
The council has neighbourhood planning resources, including examples of policies on biodiversity in other neighbourhood plans, that can help.
In addition to biodiversity policies, communities may want to create a Nature Recovery Plan. The Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre can provide environmental information to support the development of neighbourhood and community plans.
Oxfordshire Treescapes can support parishes with their plans, as well as creating a specialised report which highlights where and how tree and hedge planting can be best used.
Great crested newts
The council is involved in a pioneering new approach to the conservation of great crested newts (GCN) as it has been issued a district-wide organisational licence from Natural England. The scheme shifts the emphasis from the protection of individual newts to conservation at a population level.
This in turn allows the council to authorise developments which may impact great crested newts.
- The scheme funds the creation of quality ponds and terrestrial habitats, benefitting the district’s great crested newt population
- It removes the requirement for surveys of great crested newts, avoiding lengthy delays to planning applications which saves time and money
- The council can give authorisation to start work under this licence at the same time as giving planning permission, simplifying the process.
Developer licence payments has funded the creation of 18 new ponds, the restoration of four ponds and the creation of more than 100 hectares of new terrestrial habitats.
Developer contributions to enhance biodiversity
As well Biodiversity Net Gain (see above), additional contributions are collected to compensate for the impacts of new developments.
These have been used to create new wildlife habitats to enhance habitats impacted by development. Examples include: At Old Kiln Lakes in Chinnor where a 70 hectare nature reserve has been created which is the largest single chalk grassland creation scheme in Oxfordshire.
Contact us - Climate and Biodiversity Team
South Oxfordshire District Council