Thursday, 3 October 2013

Biodiversity Offsetting - Join the Debate

I have been following the issue of "biodiversity offsetting" with interest. The phrase "NET gain", I feel is always a cloak that can hide devastation and make it look like action is being taken, when it isn't. Figures are then used out of context, with the "gains" being branded as success while the LOSSES are conveniently swept under the carpet.

I have been keen to see the media reaction to this policy, and for ease of reading, and to get up to speed with how the policy has been received, please follow these sample links:

Just the thought of seeing wildlife as monetary "credits" for land deals feels appalling in itself. Then the idea that you can destroy long-established wildlife areas and replace them, just like that, sets a bad precedent. What example is this setting, whilst we are trying to engage the public and help them to understand the TRUE value of nature and the need to protect it.

How can developers simply "buy" other habitat? What are they doing? Knocking down houses to create it? NO!!! It's already precious habitat that SHOULD be protected anyway, under our commitments to biodiversity.

Who is going to manage the new "reserves" or "reserve extensions"? Proper management of wildlife areas takes up considerable human and financial resources. The wildlife organisations are already stretched, and then all of the sudden, they have to magically create a new army of thousands of volunteers and money pots to manage the new land? Are the builders going to pay for 25 years of management, necessary to create and protect  rich ecosystems?

I feel that what we should be doing is raising awareness of the crisis facing the UK's wildlife, encouraging people to engage today, and future generations to care.Conservation, surveys and trips to local green spaces SHOULD be part of the national curriculum. ALL LWS's, LGS's, LNR's and Country Parks should provide information on how to get involved in nature, and to guide those with a passive interest towards their local wildlife clubs and recorders.

The national wildlife organisations need more than 5% of the population "switched on" to wildlife, in order to meet the challenges ahead. If the government could help just another 5% of the population to love nature, DOUBLE the resources would be available from new volunteers, reserve entrance fees, subscriptions and donations. Imagine the impact that this would have in terms of halting the loss of wildlife!!

Back to the planning issue.

There are pilot biodiversity-offsetting schemes running across the country. Well the media and public have had a positive feeling about it, haven't they?? So all looks well?

This isn't rocket science!! When a developer submits a planning application, if the proposed site has ANY value to wildlife at all, then the developer should be aware, from the outset, that they would have to pay for a full site wildlife survey to be carried out, at full market rate, so that our dedicated experts are remunerated properly for their critical skills in assessing the location and it's links to the local ecological network.

If we are going to trade wildlife, then maybe it should be this way: If the wildlife survey finds that the site has a low value to wildlife, then contributions under S106 could be sought from the developer in the usual way, to contribute towards local amenities, including management of LWS's and LGS's. If however, the site has a value to wildlife, above a set level (based on habitat quality, variety of species, existence of BAP species...), then planning is refused outright.

This would automatically reduce the number of planning applications in areas of importance to wildlife.

To offer some sort of middle ground, if wildlife values were modest, but significant, THEN there could be provision in the planning rules to allow the developer to submit proposals which would contribute to local biodiversity. This policy would then be considered on a "case by case" basis, requiring approval from a respected organisation, such as The Wildlife Trusts (funded by Planning Application Fees).

I am aware that other countries have biodiversity-offsetting schemes. Does that make it right for the UK?

The Defra consultation process can be found at:

There is a Greenhouse think-tank paper at:

FoE, RSPB, Woodland Trust public positions are at:

The Wildlife Trusts position here:

Join the debate. Whilst I have expressed personal views, again in this article, MMNN is about pursuing the best approaches for wildlife, rather than personal subjective goals.

To all members and followers: please get involved by submitting your views to or provide your comments at the bottom of this article, which will be moderated.

Future MMNN action, will be based on common views, published here first, in order to allow a second period of sharing, before being acted upon.

Join MMNN today. Together, we really can make a difference.

Thank you

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