The following case studies are examples of how a system of biodiversity accounting works in practice (or how the current system is not working), with significant benefits to business and the environment.
Infrastructure development – Essex
Lack of efficiencies in the current system – numerous meetings, high legal costs, lengthy delays.
To secure off-site compensation for a past development in Essex, almost 70 meetings took place over a period of 18 months. In this case the need for the development was clear and it was not possible to develop elsewhere. Delays to finalise the compensation package were caused by the fact that several of the identified sites fell through – in one case bespoke legal documentation had already been prepared at significant cost. Under a biodiversity accounting system, application of the standard metric would have reduced the time spent negotiating what level of compensation was appropriate and under a uniform system where a functioning market attracts a land supply, suitable sites would have been readily available for streamlined conservation credit transactions.
Housing development – Oxfordshire
Saved time, streamlined planning process for developer, good for wildlife, eased burden on LPA.
A small housing development in Oxfordshire was not able to provide sufficient on-site mitigation and the developer was asked to seek off-site compensation. On recommendation by the Local Planning Authority the developer used this mechanism via Environment Bank (EB) to compensate for their impacts to species poor semi-improved grassland with a purchase of 14.6 credits. With a nearby Earth Trust site secured quickly (within weeks) where around 2ha of poor condition calcareous grassland is now being brought up to good condition over 25 years, the planning authority granted planning permission subject to s106 obligations being met that the compensation was fully paid for prior to commencement of development.
Housing development – Warwick
Greater efficiency reduces compensation negotiations.
A housing development for 220 homes on arable land and meadow was not able to fully mitigate biodiversity impacts on site whilst also providing appropriate public amenity areas. On recommendation from the LPA the developer was satisfied that this loss could be efficiently compensated for off-site so that time spent negotiating any (potentially unviable) on-site enhancement works could be saved while environmental gains could be achieved off-site. A compensation scheme was secured via a S106 and will be finalised in line with a forthcoming reserved matter application.
Habitat banking in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire
Quick credit sale due to set habitat bank costs, contributes to restoration of local community reserve.
The first sale of conservation credits from Ribble Valley Borough Council’s new habitat bank site was recently secured. Developers pay for the credits they need once they receive planning permission, at a set price per credit, based on the total funding required for the restoration of a local site. The first sale of 1.59 credits out of a total 15.9 credits available demonstrated how the streamlined approach can prevent costly delays for developers and planning authorities – at the end of January 2015 a developer signed a purchase contract, received an invoice, paid for the credits and received a credit certificate to discharge the relevant planning condition, all within 4 working days.