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'Habitat bank' set to be created in South Staffordshire to help developers meet future environmental improvement requirements

A “habitat bank” is set to be created in South Staffordshire to help developers meet future environmental improvement requirements.

South Staffordshire District

From this month (February) new legislation requires major new developments to deliver “biodiversity net gain” (BNG), meaning they will need to leave a site in a better state for biodiversity than before work began.

If developers are unable to deliver this on their site they will be able to buy “biodiversity units” from a habitat bank to offset their on-site requirement however. And South Staffordshire Council has identified several pieces of land within its ownership considered suitable for a habitat bank in the district.

A report to Tuesday’s cabinet meeting said: “As of 12th February, all major developments will be required to deliver 10% BNG. This will be applied to smaller sites from 2nd April 2024 subject to confirmation through secondary legislation.

“When a developer is unable to deliver all or part of their BNG requirement on their development site, they may purchase ‘biodiversity units’ (the BNG ‘currency’) from a Habitat Bank to offset their on-site requirement to another site. Habitat Banks are created when a landowner improves habitat on land within their ownership under a management plan that has been informed by a robust ecological assessment

“Once a baseline has been established, the landowner can generate biodiversity units by progressing habitat management pursuant to the objectives of the management plan. The resultant ‘uplift’ in condition generates biodiversity units which can be sold to developers in need of these units to meet 10% BNG requirement.

All habitats created for BNG are legally required to be managed for a minimum period of 30 years, the report added. Potential sites are located in Lower Penn, Perton and Bilbrook.

The report said: “South Staffordshire Council owns a number of land parcels suitable to create and/or enhance habitats. These habitats can generate biodiversity units which can subsequently be sold to developers for them to be able to achieve BNG requirements.

“The rationale for the selection of these sites has been based primarily on the ease of habitat creation – to generate units faster than complex/difficult management – and the presence of suitable access for management machinery if required. The sites proposed to be taken forward initially have been surveyed between April and July 2023 by South Staffordshire Council, according to published habitat survey and condition assessment standards published by UKHab and DEFRA.

“South Staffordshire’s Habitat Bank will initially generate circa 20 biodiversity units. This number will be updated once calculations have been progressed with the statutory biodiversity metric for the selected sites.

“Units will be priced to ensure that the costs of habitat management works will be covered over the minimum 30-year period and will be competitively priced based on the market. Further opportunities will be explored to add to the Habitat Bank, including areas such as Baggeridge Country Park, Shoal Hill etc. in the future.”

Proposed “habitat bank” sites in South Staffordshire District

  • Open space located in area between Langley Road and Dirtyfoot Lane, Lower Penn

  • Public open space at Webb Avenue, Perton

  • Upper Lake, The Parkway, Perton

  • Land near to 72 Stephenson Drive, Perton

  • Land off Watery Lane, Codsall

  • Land near to 48 Millennium Way, Bilbrook

  • Land near to Old Farm Drive, Bilbrook

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