Policy ENV 2: Ecological implementation
- Net gain: development proposals should provide for a net gain in biodiversity in line with the expectations of national policy and be supported by a biodiversity metric calculation.
- Mitigation hierarchy: in accordance with the mitigation hierarchy, all development proposals must make sure that significant harm to biodiversity and geodiversity is:
- firstly avoided; then
- if impacts cannot be avoided, identify and implement measures to acceptably mitigate these impacts; then
- finally, and as a last resort, if impacts are unavoidable and cannot be acceptably mitigated, compensation measures should be provided. This may include off-site provision where adequate on-site provision cannot be made. To maximise its benefits, off-site habitat provision should be prioritised firstly towards those areas identified on the adopted policies map as nature improvement areas and those areas identified by the ecological network map as delivering the most benefit for biodiversity (see Policy ENV 1 'Ecological network').
- Ecological assessment: planning applications should be supported by an ecological assessment (where necessary), which complies with industry good practice/guidance and:
- identifies the assets of biodiversity/geodiversity value on and in the vicinity of the site;
- evaluates the value and extent of the assets;
- assesses the likely expected impact of the development on assets of biodiversity/geodiversity value taking into account the mitigation hierarchy;
- identifies the net losses and gains for biodiversity/geodiversity, using a biodiversity metric calculation;
- identifies the options to enhance the value of the assets and contribute towards the borough's ecological network; and
- provides sufficient information to inform a Habitats Regulations Assessment, where development could have an individual or in-combination significant effect on a European Site or its supporting habitat.
- Management and maintenance: developers will be expected to secure the long term maintenance and management of any on-site or off-site habitat creation or enhancement works to make sure created habitats achieve both their target value and are maintained into the future.
- Geodiversity: any unavoidable loss of geodiversity should be compensated through the provision of replacement exposures that are of greater value for interpretation, research and study than those lost.
4.10 LPS Policy SE 3 'Biodiversity and geodiversity' makes clear the council's commitment to increasing the total area of valuable habitat in the borough, the linking up of existing habitats and the creation of ecological stepping stones and wildlife corridors. This SADPD policy provides additional detail about how this will be achieved by making sure that all development proposals contribute positively to the conservation of biodiversity and geodiversity.
4.11 The mitigation hierarchy firstly seeks to avoid significant harm. Developments should seek to comply with this policy requirement through the designing out of impacts on biodiversity. For example, this can be achieved by retaining and buffering important ecological features such as priority habitats in the layout of a residential development or seeking to retain an existing bat roost in a building proposed for conversion or renovation. It is vital that these issues are considered at the very start of formulating development proposals.
4.12 When all available options in the mitigation hierarchy have been explored and residual net gain is not possible on the site, then compensatory measures off-site will be required. Habitat creation and enhancement will only be possible where opportunities arise and so off-site habitat creation and enhancement may, in some cases, be delivered some distance away from the site of the proposed development.
4.13 The government supports the principle of net gain in its 25 year environment plan. Thriving plants and wildlife are one of its key goals. All losses and gains to the biodiversity value of a site resulting from development should be measured to make sure developments deliver the required net gain.
4.14 Major developments and developments affecting semi-natural habitats should be supported by an assessment of the impacts of the proposed development undertaken in accordance with the DEFRA technical paper: the metric for the biodiversity offsetting pilot in England March 2012 (or any subsequent publication). It is suggested that spreadsheets developed by the Environment Bank be used in assisting with the undertaking of this assessment.
4.15 The Meres and Mosses of the Marches Nature Improvement Area (NIA) was established in 2012 as one of twelve NIAs nationally following the publication of the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper. It covers an area to the south of Crewe and Nantwich and extends into Cheshire West and Chester, and Shropshire. It comprises the largest and most ecologically diverse cluster of natural wetlands in lowland England with 13,000 ha of peat deposits, Europe’s greatest concentration of ponds, rare floating bogs, glacial lakes and a wealth of wetland species. NIAs were identified for the opportunity they offer to restore nature at a landscape scale.
4.16 The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended by the Conservation of Habitats and Species (amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019), also known as the 'Habitats Regulations', provide legal protection to habitats and species of national importance. A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is needed for plans and projects that are likely to have a significant effect on European sites. As a competent authority under the Habitats Regulations, the council will carefully consider the nutrient impacts of any new plans and projects (including new development proposals) on European sites and whether those impacts may have an adverse effect on the integrity of a European site that requires mitigation, including through nutrient neutrality. Following the 16 March 2022, Ministerial Statement Delivering the Environment Act: taking action to protect and restore nature (statement UIN HCWS688) reference is made to Rostherne Mere Ramsar (nitrogen and phosphorus impacts), Oak Mere SAC (phosphorus impacts) and the catchments of Abbotts Moss SSSI and Wybunbury Mosses SSSI, part of the West Midlands Mosses SAC (nitrogen and phosphorus impacts).
- Green Infrastructure Assessment of Cheshire East (PDF, 4.7MB) (2018, The Mersey Forest) [ED 55]
- Cheshire East Green Infrastructure Plan (PDF, 3.7MB) (2019, The Environment Partnership) [ED 47]
- A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment (2018, HM Government)
- Biodiversity Net Gain: Good Practice Principles for Development (2017, CIEEM, CIRIA and IEMA)
- The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature (2011, HM Government)
- Technical Paper: The Metric for the Biodiversity Offsetting Pilot in England (2012, DEFRA)
- Nutrient Neutrality: A Summary Guide and Frequently Asked Questions (2022, Natural England)
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