Council ramps up biodiversity target

Developers will be asked to do more for wildlife in north Oxfordshire in the wake of a council decision.

Published: Thursday, 10th October 2019

At a meeting on Monday 7 October, Cherwell District Council’s executive agreed to seek 10 per cent net biodiversity gains through the planning system. It comes just days after the publication of The State of Nature 2019 report, which shows that one in seven native British species is threatened with extinction.

The council already requires net gains through the planning process, but this fresh decision establishes a consistent approach, aiming for more substantial and measurable wildlife habitat gains.

Cllr Andrew McHugh, lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “It is shocking to learn how far populations of much-loved animals such as hedgehogs, swifts and butterflies are declining.

“Diverse natural habitats are valuable in their own right, but nowadays we have a better understanding of the fact that they also support our wellbeing, our economy, and carbon capture.

“Like any planning authority, we have to meet Government housebuilding targets. But we can also use the planning system to mitigate the effects of this on local ecosystems, and indeed require developers to protect and improve our district’s natural capital.”

The decision mirrors Government’s Environment Bill summer policy statement from July, which indicated that the 10 per cent net biodiversity gain will soon be made law nationally.

Net biodiversity gains will be secured through the planning system, with requirements for on-site habitat provision made when planning permission is granted. There will also be further work supporting natural habitats through continued cooperation with partner organisations such as the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust; Wild Oxfordshire; and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The executive also approved detailed guidance on nesting boxes and bricks for species such as swallows, bats, owls and house martins, which can be installed in any new housing development. Cherwell has installed swift bricks at the new Hill Community and Sports Facility and at Hope Close, both in Banbury.