Aylesbury Vale Area

VALP Further Main Modifications

Ended on the 9th February 2021
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Chapter 9: Natural Environment

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Original text

In order to implementcriterion (a) of the policy below, a supplementary planning document (SPD) will be prepared, working with the other Buckinghamshire councils, to explain how the policy objective of 'net gain' can be achieved. 'Net gain' means protecting existing habitats and ensuring lost or degraded environmental features are compensated for by restoring or creating environmental features that are of greater value to wildlife and people. The SPD will consider the possibilities of adopting a biometric calculator to quantify gains and losses, and how the requirement for net gain will be managed and monitored.

Proposed further changes

In order to implement criterion (a) of the policy below, a supplementary planning document Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) will be prepared in conjunction with the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership, to explain how the policy objective of 'net gain' can be achieved. 'Net gain' means protecting existing habitats and ensuring lost or degraded environmental features are compensated for by restoring or creating environmental features that are of greater value to wildlife and people. The SPD will consider the possibilities of adopting a biometric set out the expectations to use a recognised Biodiversity Impact Assessment calculator to quantify gains and losses, and how the requirement for net gain will be managed and monitored.

Reason for change

Proposed change in response to representation(s)


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A biometric calculator applies a statistical analysis to biological data and measures the habitat gains or losses of a development and then quantifies how many "biodiversity units" would be lost or gained. Any development would need to generate a net gain so the unit figure would need to be positive. A negative unit loss would need to be offset. The biodiversity unit value can be equated to monetary value, and the relevant details will be considered in the SPD. In this way, a calculator quantifies how many biodiversity units would need to be paid for by a development in order to offset any biodiversity loss. Offset providers are able to offer for sale conservation projects that deliver biodiversity units, and these may be bought by a developer. Developer contributions will need to seek to show a net gain on the biometric calculator. Prior to the SPD being adopted, or a Buckinghamshire Biometric Calculator being formally agreed between Buckinghamshire Councils, Warwickshire's current Biometric Calculator should be used to determine the quantitative ecological impact of any development.

Proposed further changes

A biometric calculator applies a statistical analysis to biological data and measures the habitat gains or losses of a development and then quantifies how many "biodiversity units" would be lost or gained. Any development would need to generate a net gain so the unit figure would need to be positive. A negative unit loss would need to be offset. The biodiversity unit value can be equated to monetary value, and the relevant details will be considered in the SPD. In this way, a calculator quantifies how many biodiversity units would need to be paid for by a development in order to offset any biodiversity loss. Offset providers are able to offer for sale conservation projects that deliver biodiversity units, and these may be bought by a developer. Developer contributions will need to seek to show a net gain on the biometric calculator. Prior to the SPD being adopted, or a Buckinghamshire Biometric Calculator being formally agreed between Buckinghamshire Councils, Warwickshire's current Biometric Calculator should be used to determine the quantitative ecological impact of any development. A best practice methodology should be used to determine the quantitative ecological impact of any development –for example the most recent Warwickshire County Council's biodiversity impact assessment calculator –until a formally agreed local approach is set out in the SPD, agreed by Buckinghamshire Council in conjunction with the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership. These assessments must be undertaken in accordance with nationally accepted standards and guidance including the DEFRA Metric, BS 8683 Biodiversity net gain in project design and construction; and CIRIA Biodiversity Net Gain Good practice principles for development.

Reason for change

Proposed change in response to representation(s)


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266, Policy NE1 Biodiversity and Geodiversity

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NE1 Biodiversity and Geodiversity

Protected Sites

Internationally or nationally important Protected Sites (SACs and SSSIs) and species will be protected. Avoidance of likely significant adverse effects should be the first option.

Development likely to affect the Chiltern Beechwoods SAC will be subject to assessment under the Habitat Regulations and will not be permitted unless any significant adverse effects can be fully mitigated.

Development proposals that would lead to an individual or cumulative significant adverse impact on an internationally or nationally important Protected Site or species will be refused unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated as follows:

  1.  the benefits of the development affecting the site significantly and demonstrably outweigh both the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and
  2.  the loss can be mitigated and compensation can be provided to achieve a net gain in biodiversity/geodiversity.

Sufficient information must be provided for the Council to assess the significance of the impact against the importance of the Protected Site and the species which depend upon it. This will include the area around the Protected Site and the ecosystem services it provides and development has followed the mitigation hierarchy set out in (d) below.

Protection and enhancement of Biodiversity and Geodiversity

Protection and enhancement of biodiversity and geodiversity will be achieved by the following:

  1.  A net gain in biodiversity on minor and major developments will be sought by protecting, managing, enhancing and extending existing biodiversity resources, and by creating new biodiversity resources. These gains must be measurable using best practice in biodiversity and green infrastructure accounting and in accordance with any methodology (including a biometric calculator) to be set out in a future Supplementary Planning Document.
  2.  If significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or as a last resort, compensated for, then development will not be permitted. Mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures must be secured and should be maintained in perpetuity
  3.  Development which would result in damage to or loss of a site of biodiversity or geological value of regional or local importance including habitats of principal importance or the habitats of species of principal importance will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances where the need for, and benefits of the development significantly and demonstrably outweigh the harm it would cause to the site, and the loss can be mitigated and compensation provided to achieve a net gain in biodiversity/geodiversity
  4.  The Council will, where appropriate, expect ecological surveys for planning applications. These must be undertaken by a suitably qualified person and consistent with nationally accepted standards (BS 42020:Biodiversity – Code of Practice for planning and development) as replaced
  5.  Where development proposals affect a Priority Habitat (As defined in the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan or UK Biodiversity Action Plan) then mitigation should not be off-site. Where no Priority Habitat is involved then mitigation can be of-site. When there is a reasonable likelihood of the presence of protected or priority species or their habitats, development will not be permitted until it has been demonstrated that the proposed development will not result in adverse impacts on these species or their habitats. The only exception will be where the advantages of development to the protected site and the local community clearly outweigh the adverse impacts. In such a case, the Council will consider the wider implications of any adverse impact to a protected site, such as its role in providing a vital wildlife corridor, mitigating flood risk or ensuring good water quality in a catchment.
  6.  Development proposals will be expected to promote site permeability for wildlife and avoid the fragmentation of wildlife corridors, incorporating features to encourage biodiversity, and retain and where possible enhance existing features of nature conservation value on site. Existing ecological networks should be identified and maintained to avoid habitat fragmentation, and ecological corridors including water courses should form an essential component of green infrastructure provision in association with new development to ensure habitat connectivity
  7.  Planning conditions/obligations will be used to ensure net gains in biodiversity by helping to deliver the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan targets in the biodiversity opportunity areas. Where development is proposed within, or adjacent to, a biodiversity opportunity area, biodiversity surveys and a report will be required to identify constraints and opportunities for biodiversity enhancement. Development which would prevent the aims of a biodiversity opportunity area from being achieved will not be permitted. Where there is potential for development, the design and layout of the development should secure biodiversity enhancement and the Council will use planning conditions and obligations as needed to help achieve the aims of the biodiversity opportunity area. A monitoring and management plan will be required for biodiversity features on site to ensure their long-term suitable management (secured through planning condition or Section 106 agreement).
  8.  Development proposals adversely affecting a local nature reserve will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to the amount of information available about the site and its significance, relative to the type, scale and benefits of the development being proposed and any mitigation. Any mitigation strategy will need to include co-operation with the nature reserve managers.

Proposed further changes

NE1 Biodiversity and Geodiversity

Protected Sites

Internationally or nationally important Protected Sites (SACs and SSSIs) and species will be protected. Avoidance of likely significant adverse effects should be the first option.

Development likely to affect the Chiltern Beechwoods SAC will be subject to assessment under the Habitat Regulations and will not be permitted unless any significant adverse effects can be fully mitigated.

Development proposals that would lead to an individual or cumulative significant adverse impact on an internationally or nationally important Protected Site or species, such as SSSIs or irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland or ancient trees, will be refused unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated as follows:

  1.  the benefits of the development affecting the site significantly and demonstrably outweigh both the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it internationally or nationally important of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national network – for example of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and
  2.  the loss can be mitigated and compensation can be provided to achieve a net gain of equivalence in biodiversity/geodiversity.

Sufficient information must be provided for the Council to assess the significance of the impact against the importance of the Protected Site and its component habitats and the species which depend upon it. This will include the area around the Protected Site and the ecosystem services it provides and evidence that the development has followed the mitigation hierarchy set out in (d) below.

Protection and enhancement of Biodiversity and Geodiversity

Protection and enhancement of biodiversity and geodiversity will be achieved by the following:

  1.  A net gain in biodiversity on minor and major developments will be sought by protecting, managing, enhancing and extending existing biodiversity resources, and by creating new biodiversity resources. These gains must be measurable using best practice in biodiversity and green infrastructure accounting and in accordance with any methodology (including a biometric calculator Biodiversity Impact Assessment) to be set out in a future Supplementary Planning Document the Biodiversity and Geodiversity SPD.
  2.  If significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or as a last resort, compensated for, then development will not be permitted. If a net loss in biodiversity is calculated, using a suitable Biodiversity Impact Assessment (see c) then avoidance, mitigation and compensation, on site first, then offsite must be sought so the development results in a net gain (percentage of net gain to meet any nationally-set minimum standard and or as detailed in an SPD) in order for development to be permitted. Mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures must be secured and should be maintained in perpetuity. These assessments must be undertaken in accordance with nationally-accepted standards and guidance (BS 8683 Biodiversity net gain in project design and construction; and CIRIA Biodiversity Net Gain Good practice principles for development).
  3.  Development which would result in damage to or loss of a site of biodiversity or geological value of regional or local importance (such as Local Wildlife Sites or Local Geological Sites) including habitats of species of principal importance (known as Priority Habitats) or species of principal importance (Priority Species) or their habitats will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances where the need for and benefits of the development significantly and demonstrably outweigh the harm it would cause to the site, and the loss can be mitigated and compensation provided to achieve a net gain in biodiversity/geodiversity.
  4.  The Council will, where appropriate, expect ecological surveys for planning applications. These must be undertaken by a suitably qualified person and consistent with nationally accepted standards and guidance (BS 42020:Biodiversity – Code of Practice for planning and development; and CIEEM Ecological Report Writing guidance) as replaced
  5.  Where development proposals affect a Priority Habitat (As defined in the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan or UK Biodiversity Action Plan and as listed in accordance with s41 of the NERC Act 2006) then mitigation should not be off-site. Where no Priority Habitat is involved then mitigation is expected to follow the mitigation hierarchy, where options for avoidance, mitigation and compensation on- site, and then offsite compensation, should be followed in that order as outlined in d. can be off-site. When there is a reasonable likelihood of the presence of protected or priority species or their habitats, development will not be permitted until it has been demonstrated that the proposed development will not result in adverse impacts on these species or their habitats. The only exception will be where the advantages of development to the protected site and the local community clearly outweigh the adverse impacts. In such a case, the Council will consider the wider implications of any adverse impact to a protected site, such as its role in providing a vital wildlife corridor, mitigating flood risk or ensuring good water quality in a catchment.
  6.  Development proposals will be expected to promote site permeability for wildlife and avoid the fragmentation of wildlife corridors, incorporating features to encourage biodiversity, and retain and where possible enhance existing features of nature conservation value on site. Existing ecological networks should be identified and maintained to avoid habitat fragmentation, and ecological corridors including water courses should form an essential component of green infrastructure provision in association with new development to ensure habitat connectivity.
  7.  Planning conditions/obligations will be used to ensure net gains in biodiversity by helping to deliver the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan targets in the biodiversity opportunity areas and other areas of local biodiversity priority. Where development is proposed within, or adjacent to, a biodiversity opportunity area, biodiversity surveys and a report will be required to identify constraints and opportunities for biodiversity enhancement. Development which would prevent the aims of a biodiversity opportunity area Biodiversity Opportunity Area from being achieved will not be permitted. Where there is potential for development, the design and layout of the development should secure biodiversity enhancement and the Council will use planning conditions and obligations as needed to help achieve the aims of the biodiversity opportunity area. A monitoring and management plan will be required for biodiversity features on site to ensure their long-term suitable management (secured through planning condition or Section 106 agreement).
  8.  Development proposals adversely affecting a local nature reserve Local Nature Reserve will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to the amount of information available about the site and its significance and importance for biodiversity, relative to the type, scale and benefits of the development being proposed and any mitigation. Any mitigation strategy will need to include co-operation with the nature reserve managers and consider the importance of the site to wider ecological networks.

Reason for change

Proposed change in response to representation(s)

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