Biodiversity Offsetting - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


Recommendations


8.  If biodiversity offsetting is introduced, its metric for calculating environmental losses and gains must reflect the full complexity of habitats, including particular species, local habitat significance, ecosystem services provided and 'ecosystem network' connectivity. For some sites, for example sites of special scientific interest, the weightings in the metric must fully reflect their value as national, as well as local, assets. For developments not of national significance, offsetting would not be appropriate where environmental loss is irreplaceable within a reasonable timeframe, such as with ancient woodlands. (Paragraph 16)

9.  If the Government introduces a biodiversity scheme, it must set out clear protocols for how the assessment should be done, require local planning authorities to audit and validate assessment (if they do not themselves carry them out), and publish details of how assessments are applied in each individual case. With competing demands on financially constrained local authorities, the Government must allow them to recover the full costs of their offsetting work from developers, or else make the required funds available from the Treasury. (Paragraph 19)

10.  Any offsetting scheme should take account of reduced public access to the biodiversity being lost with development. Distant offsets might be contemplated, especially if they benefit ecosystem networks and if the public has little or no access to the development site. Where local people's enjoyment of habitats and wildlife would be directly affected, on the other hand, offsetting decisions should be considered at the lowest planning authority level possible. This would have the additional benefit of allowing that authority to be able to give full weight to both the loss and the gain under its jurisdiction. (Paragraph 25)

11.  Any biodiversity offsetting system must emphasise the continued primacy of the 'mitigation hierarchy', and the Government should make clear under such a system that the National Planning Policy Framework commitment to the hierarchy will not be weakened or bypassed. (Paragraph 29)

12.  The Government should task Natural England to monitor any offsetting scheme introduced to ensure a balance of habitat types are covered in the offsets, so that overall they are broadly similar to the habitats that are lost, and provide Natural England with the resources that such monitoring would need. If necessary, the weighting factors applied in the offset metrics should be adjusted to ensure that such a balance is delivered. (Paragraph 34)

13.  More analysis of the pilots should be undertaken once they have been concluded, specifically to test how uptake might be expected to vary according to the design of the schemes. (Paragraph 35)

14.  [Unless like-for-like habitat replacement is required, any offsetting process will have to make ultimately subjective 'equivalence' judgements about the value of nature.] That concern should prompt the Government to develop a system where offsetting 'risk factors' are initially given very high weightings which can only be reduced when experience of offsetting in practice provides confidence that the environment has not been harmed overall. (Paragraph 42)

15.  The Government should allow the offsetting pilots to run their course and then be evaluated in a genuinely independent way. If that evaluation indicates clear advantages in introducing an offsetting scheme, at that point the Government should bring forward revised proposals that reflect the concerns that we have raised in this Report. (Paragraph 45)



 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 12 November 2013