Developers have been told they can ‘build’ in National Parks, as long as damage suffered by wildlife is off-set elsewhere. This a very worrying scenario as it is very difficult to replicate a habitat elsewhere and should only be considered as a very last resort.
By Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor. PUBLISHED: 10:50, 25 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:42, 25 September 2013.
Homes and businesses could be built in National Parks if developers pay to make up the damage elsewhere. In a speech on boosting the rural economy, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson backed the idea of developments in some of England’s most picturesque areas. In exchange construction firms would have to create new nature sites nearby to offset the damage caused.
Recovery: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson claims more development in national parks would boost rural economies. The idea of increased development in Englandís 10 National Parks including Exmoor, the Peak District, Dartmoor and the Lake District could be controversial. But Mr. Paterson argued that it could play a part in wider government plans designed to help boost growth and revive the rural economy.
He used a speech to the National Park Authorities Conference in Easingwold, York, to back the idea of ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’ in national parks. Where a new development damages the natural
He said: ‘For too long we have allowed the lazy assumption that the environment and growth are incompatible objectives within the planning system. I believe that, with a bit of innovative thinking, in many cases it is possible to have both. This is why I am particularly interested in Biodiversity Offsetting. Offsetting gives us a chance to improve the way our planning system works. It gets round the long-running conundrum of how to grow the economy at the same time as improving the environment. It could provide real opportunities in our National Parks, where the necessary extension of a farm building could result in the enhancement of an existing habitat or the creation of a new one.’
Under existing rules the National Park Authority has two statutory duties – to conserve the countryside and its wildlife, and to allow people to enjoy it. A spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: ‘Exactly how would it be possible for a developer to replace, for example, ancient hedgerows by way of mitigation?
‘Some habitats, particularly sensitive ones, are irreplaceable and thoroughly integral to the landscape’s character because it’s taken centuries to evolve – you can’t just order a new one to be delivered somewhere else like it’s an Amazon purchase. Offsetting doesn’t address the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive, and if it allows developers to push through damaging schemes then it’s just another way for money to win over protecting nature.’
The Government has launched a consultation on biodiversity offsetting, which is still open, Mr Paterson said. He stressed it was one of several policies which he thought could benefit national parks. He added: ‘There are many opportunities for National Parks to seize upon. One of these is the opportunity to capitalise on and increase the 110 million people who visit the UKís National Parks every year. Tourism is important because it provides people with new experiences. It enables people to appreciate and put a value on wildlife and wild places. Tourism also helps grow the economy. Tourists spend money in our National Parks and this supports 68,000 jobs. But also when tourists return home they are more likely to buy the products we export. Great clothing, great food and great drink.’
†What is biodiversity Off-Setting?
An approach that can be used to compensate for habitats and species lost to development in one area, with the creation, enhancement or restoration of habitat in another. Biodiversity off-setting was announced in the Governmentís Natural Environment White Paper – its 50-year vision for the natural environment. It is an approach that can be used to compensate for habitats and species lost to development in one area, with the creation, enhancement or restoration of habitat in another.
When is it appropriate to use biodiversity off-setting? The replacement of one habitat with another is extremely complex. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the potential of biodiversity offsetting on land, but believe it is a last resort measure and should only be used to compensate for genuinely unavoidable damage. The replacement of one habitat with another is extremely complex and there are some habitats that are simply irreplaceable, so:
1. The starting point for any development proposal should be to avoid damage to our most important wildlife sites.
2. Next, it is essential to mitigate the potential damage of a development through good design.
3. Only then – and as a final measure – should off-setting be considered to compensate for damage that cannot be avoided or mitigated. Any offsetting should help nature to recover by creating more habitat than is being lost.
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