Some positive thoughts here on the increasingly controversial biodiversity offsetting approach to planning. The key aspect to stress from this post is ‘local’. Local systems, local offsetting, local partnerships, local responsibility and local biodiversity. Personally I am not a big fan of biodiversity offsetting as a concept (as you can see in a previous article of mine regarding national parks). However, if it is going ahead (and it seems likely at this point in time that it will) we can at least approach the system in a way that ensures locality at the centre of negotiations. Biodiversity frameworks often work on small levels within a bigger frame, not the other way around. To mitigate habitat loss on the outskirts of Bradford by planting a woodland in the Canary islands does not cut the biscuit from my point of view. Habitat mitigation must be specific and controlled, something I fear will not come about as the campaign seems to be led by politicians who have already made up their minds and developers who are seeking an easy route to planning regulations.
Where should any new habitat go?
The fundamental principle underpinning the concept of biodiversity offsetting is that when a planning decision is made that involves loss of habitat, there will be compensatory habitat created or restored somewhere else.
But (putting aside the questionable planning decision-making process) one of the key questions as a result of this decision is; what determines where that habitat is created or restored?
If we start at the extremes: habitat loss in the UK should not be offset overseas. Just because the Government has committed to supporting biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories does not mean that we should be replacing trees lost in Kent by planting a new wood in St Helena. We have been reassured by Defra that offsetting internationally has been taken off the table, but of course we are not complacent so we are still lobbying on this point and…
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