Expressions of interest from local authorities for a Biodiversity Offsetting pilot have been called for by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This will help developers satisfy planning obligations to make good any harm to wildlife, create new quality habitats or make existing nature sites bigger and better for wildlife.
The pilot will run for two years from April 2012. It is designed to thoroughly test the offsetting process before a decision is made about whether it could be used across England.
Local authorities are the focus of the pilot, but conservation and community groups, developers, farmers and land managers will also play a key role in testing the effectiveness of the approach.
In a separate but related development, local communities are being invited to champion their favourite nature areas or suggest where new ones could be created in return for a share of £7.5m to help improve them.
A dozen new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) will be established, based on the recommendations of local people. The areas will see rural and urban sites revitalised and turned into bigger, interconnected networks of wildlife habitats that will range from 10,000 to 50,000 hectares in size.
The intention is to re-establish thriving wildlife populations and help species respond to the challenges of climate change.
In the countryside, Defra will help local groups create vital buffer zones for wildlife by reintroducing hedgerows, meadows, ponds and woodlands. At the same time barriers preventing wildlife from travelling between neighbouring habitats will be removed.
In towns and cities, the public will be helped to add trees to their streets and build new miniature ‘pocket gardens’. Funds will also be made available to turn roofs into new habitats for birds and insects while helping people keep their buildings cool in summer and warm in winter.
Helen Phillips, chief executive of Natural England who will manage the NIA competition and funds, said: “Nature Improvement Areas present a tremendous opportunity to benefit people and wildlife. We look forward to a range of projects that will tap the potential for local communities, the private sector, the voluntary sector and Government to work together in make a lasting difference to landscapes across the country.”
21 July 2011