UK’s first biodiversity offset – restoring vital habitat in Oxfordshire
Biodiversity offsetting is an innovative and practical scheme used to assess the impact to biodiversity from development and calculate the amount of compensation required. It is used only on approved development that has completed the normal planning mitigation hierarchy*, and is funded using ‘conservation credits’, purchased by developers. Conservation credits are spent on creating or improving other natural – and preferably local – spaces, meaning there is no net loss of biodiversity.
Being part of the first formal agreement gives the Earth Trust first-hand, practical understanding of the scheme and how it might work in future. In order to achieve our aim of living more sustainably we need to explore new approaches. We are a pioneering organisation which is exploring how new partnerships enable growth in business and can also improve the natural environment.
Securing the funding enabled Earth Trust to start restoration work on an area of chalk grassland on the Earth Trust Farm called Bushey Bank. We began controlling large areas of scrub, on an ongoing annual basis, and introduced low intensity grazing with cattle and sheep. As a result, our surveys have shown that wildlife is increasing on this chalk bank.
What is Biodiversity Offsetting?
Head Chief Executive Jayne Manley discuss some of the issues surrounding biodiversity offsetting:
*Importantly, offsetting complies with the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ (first avoid, then minimise, then mitigate on-site, then offset) and only applies to sites that have already been identified as appropriate for development. Offset receptor sites – sites where there are plans for long-term habitat creation or restoration – can be put forward by anyone; landowners, farmers, or conservation bodies, and are also selected for their capacity to link wildlife in the greater countryside.