This report provides some background as to what approaches we may want to take in the Local Plan in achieving this aim.
The Committee considered the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management’s report detailing the potential approaches to take in the local plan in achieving biodiversity net gain in preparation for this becoming an Environment Bill.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management drew Members’ attention to the importance of ensuring the prevention of harm with regards to biodiversity and emphasised the requirement to put back what was lost through development.
Members’ considered the levels of biodiversity gain and the requirement to deliver a 10% minimum net gain and whether there was options to go higher to deliver a 20% net gain.
Comments raised by Non-Committee Members included:
· The Chair, on behalf of the Portfolio Holder for Coast, Country and Environment sought clarification whether any off site provisions would be going out of the East Devon district. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised there was an option to deliver off site outside the district but equally there was an option to retain monies and develop projects within the district and sought Members’ views;
· Endorse all three recommendations;
· Reference to paragraph 5.5 and a suggestion to contact Lichfield District Council and other councils that have adopted this policy. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised he was not aware of any contact with Lichfield District and confirmed he was happy to make contact to discuss the issues they had encountered if Members’ were minded to pursue that approach;
· Concerns raised about straying into ‘green washing’ territory with regards to habitat mitigation;
· East Devon has quite a few small parcels of land which could be used as boosters for biodiversity with investment in meadow grasses and wildflowers;
· The need for biodiversity planning across the Greater Exeter area especially Dawlish Warren and the Exe Estuary and the need to look at supporting adjacent authorities in those areas.
Comments made by Committee Members included:
· Felt like a narrow report in terms of focussing largely on biodiversity net gain and not the wider impacts of biodiversity. There was no detail on protected species and a suggestion was made for more information from an ecological aspect. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised he was in the process of recruiting an Ecologist to help take this forward;
· Concerns raised about how the percentages were measured on page 78;
· Concerns raised about cutting down mature trees and increasing the biodiversity by 10%-30%. This is not acceptable;
· Preference for the higher percentage;
· The need to value the existing biodiversity on site first;
· Mitigation should be kept within East Devon;
· Reference to paragraph 6.2 and the need to for further details.
Strategic Planning Committee
1. Noted the detail of the report and endorsed that work continue to look at the potential approach of requiring at least 20% biodiversity net gain (subject to viability testing) and the role that the Council might want to play in delivery.
2. Endorsed that a review of existing council owned land for their potential suitability to deliver biodiversity net gain be undertaken
3. Endorsed that work continues on producing a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the publication version of the local plan for late 2022.