Biodiversity off-setting consultation
DEFRA has published a green paper on biodiversity offsetting in England and launched a consultation on the government’s proposals. The consultation closes on 7 November 2013.
Biodiversity offsetting is to be used as part of the planning process for approval of developments. Subject to certain conditions, it allows a developer to damage the environmental value of a site (where this damage cannot be avoided), provided it pays to restore another site that has the potential to have at least the same environmental quality as the damaged site.
Biodiversity offsetting is already sometimes used in limited circumstances in the UK. DEFRA is currently piloting such schemes with local planning authorities in six areas of England and they are now consulting on proposals for wider use.
The scheme would follow the mitigation hierarchy which is already embedded in planning policy, and which requires environmental damage to be dealt with in the following order:
- Avoid harm
- Where harm is unavoidable, mitigate the impact
- Compensate for any residual impact
The consultation covers various issues including how offsetting schemes should be funded, how they should be applied and whether management agreements and an offset register are required.