The value of biodiversity within the built environment

Goal: Working with and enhancing biodiversity for future generations

  p26. South and Vale are rich in biological diversity (“biodiversity”). Biodiversity underpins our relationship with the natural world and is key for our own wellbeing, from human health to food production. Historic and modern declines in biodiversity mean that bold action is required to not only minimise impacts but ensure that ecosystems are left in a measurably better state than they were before. It is essential that the masterplanning and design process acknowledges existing biodiversity assets, understands the environmental context of those assets and takes steps to deliver tangible net gains for biodiversity.

  p27. Developers should engage with competent ecological advice and undertake ecological surveys at the earliest opportunity. This will ensure that the masterplanning and design process is informed of all biodiversity assets on site and integrates strategies for delivering biodiversity net gain. Developers are encouraged to engage with the local planning authority through pre-application advice to discuss how their development can deliver biodiversity net gain.

Key ecological considerations

  p28. There are key biodiversity assets that must be understood and considered during the masterplanning and design process of any development. These are:

  • Habitats and features of increased ecological value, especially irreplaceable and priority habitats;
  • Species assemblage, especially protected species and priority species;
  • Sites formally designated for their nature conservation value – Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) , Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), etc.;
  • The baseline contribution that the existing site makes towards biodiversity. This will influence the amount of biodiversity net gain that a development can deliver.

  p29. The biodiversity mitigation hierarchy should be applied to all developments. These required steps should be taken to avoid impacts where at all possible, mitigate when impacts cannot be avoided; and finally compensate for any residual impacts.

  p30. Impacts can be direct (e.g. loss of habitats to development) or indirect (e.g. increased footfall resulting in deterioration of habitats). Developers will be expected to identify and justify impacts against the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy.

Biodiversity Net Gain

  p31. Biodiversity net gain is an approach to development and land management that leaves biodiversity in a measurably better state than before. This approach is required by the Environment Act 2021, national policy and the districts’ local plans. Developments that result in net losses of biodiversity are not acceptable. Biodiversity metrics are used to quantify and compare the anticipated biodiversity value of a site before and after development has taken place. Throughout the masterplanning and design process, biodiversity metrics should be used to ensure that developments remain on-track to deliver a biodiversity net gain. The local planning authority has produced guidance on the appropriate use of biodiversity metrics and the evidence base needed to support any assessment. Pre-application advice is available for developers to engage with the local planning authority and review biodiversity metrics prior to the submission of an application.

  p32. Where proposals fail to achieve a net gain, the Council will seek amendments to the scheme to avoid impacts and/ or, to increase the level of mitigation so that the proposals can demonstrate a net gain. Where net loss is demonstrably unavoidable, the Council will require the developer to provide offsite compensation offsetting or other compensation measures are not appropriate for dealing with impacts on protected species, irreplaceable habitats, or designated sites. In circumstances where net gain cannot be adequately demonstrated and compensation proposals are inappropriate or inadequate, the Council may refuse planning permission.


  p33. Where on site biodiversity enhancements are agreed as part of a planning permission these will be secured through planning conditions and obligations.

  p34. On site biodiversity enhancements must be looked at holistically and coordinated with other site proposals especially the landscape and drainage strategies to ensure that they can be implemented without compromising other elements of site design (for example, wildflower grasslands are not compatible with small urban spaces).

  p35. Built environments, if designed and implemented appropriately, can become valuable areas for wildlife. Proposals should seek to integrate biodiversity enhancements throughout areas of development by providing biodiverse landscaping and faunal features. It is strongly recommended that at least 50% of new structures should have at least one faunal enhancement feature (bat box, bird box, bee brick, etc.) integrated into the built fabric. In many cases it will be appropriate to integrate multiple features into a single structure. Faunal enhancement features should be provided in suitable positions. For example, bat boxes should be integrated into the southern or western elevations of structures where thermal gain is maximised. Bird boxes should be integrated into eastern and northern elevations, facing away from prevailing weather. Both should be located high up, no less than three metres above the ground level.

Ensure the scheme:

    1. retains and enhances existing important habitats, creates new habitats and aims to deliver at least 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (Environment Act 2021)1;

      1Mandatory biodiversity net gain is scheduled to come into force in November 2023.

    2. provides comprehensive and up-to-date ecological surveys, undertaken by a suitably qualified ecologist and in accordance with industry best practice. Results of surveys should be used to inform the design proposal;
    3. where impacts on ecological receptors (designated sites, protected species, priority habitats, etc.) are predicted, explains what those impacts are and how the design process has complied with the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy. This means firstly avoid impacts where possible, mitigate unavoidable impacts and finally compensate residual impacts to deliver a net gain. Make sure that integrated measures are clearly shown on plans;
    4. demonstrates that your development will deliver a net gain for biodiversity using a biodiversity metric;
    5. demonstrates biodiversity enhancement proposals are compatible with the site design including the landscape and drainage strategy.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications