This report seeks the Committee’s endorsement of the Biodiversity Net Gain Study (BNG) as a high-level baseline study, forming part of the evidence base to inform the Local Plan update (when it resumes). In particular, the BNG study informs the spatial application of the 10% net gain metric (when this is finalised in November 2023) through development management decisions. The BNG study will also help engagement with developers and nature recovery stakeholders, to deliver habitat creation/improvement projects in the right places, inform the preparation of an Arun Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and cross boundary nature recovery planning work e.g. emergent West Sussex County Nature Recovery Network.
Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Planning Policy Team Leader presented the report which sought the Committee’s endorsement of the Biodiversity Net Gain Study (BNG) as a high-level baseline study, forming part of the evidence base to inform the Local Plan update (when it resumed). It was explained that the BNG study informed the spatial application of the 10% net gain metric (when this was finalised in November 2023) through development management decisions or offsite contributions for strategic sites, and would also help engagement with developers and nature recovery stakeholders to deliver habitat creation and improvement projects in core Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) and inform the preparation of an Arun Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and cross boundary nature recovery planning work like the emergent West Sussex County Nature Recovery Network. The Environment Act 2021 with its making mandatory the biodiversity net gain that already featured in Arun’s Local Plan, and the council’s own resolutions around the climate emergency and carbon reduction were identified as key drivers for this work.
During the discussion, all Members that spoke spoke highly of the report and thanked the Officer team involved in the project. Other points raised included that this would only become policy once the Local Plan review was underway, the importance of corridors between BOAs especially for rare species survival, the richness of habitats and wildlife throughout the District, the wide ranging consultation and high level of support informing the study, and concern for the bureaucratic consequences of the credit system to parts of the District if developers could offset biodiversity loss elsewhere than the site at which it was being lost. The recommendations were then proposed by Councillor Lury and seconded by Councillor Edwards.
RESOLVED - That
1. The key recommendations and actions of the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) study inform the Local Plan Update (when resumed) and that its contents and associated mapping be used as the basis for working jointly with neighbours and stakeholders coordinating and delivering a nature recovery network including though shaping preparation of the Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan;
2. The existing nine Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOA) be strategic high value Core Areas for nature recovery and expansion, including the proposed use of semi strategic medium value wildlife corridors and ‘steppingstones’ of biodiversity to link habitats and species and for nature recovery;
3. The proposed model policy approach to Biodiversity Net Gain (compared to Policy ENV DM5 of the Arun Local Plan) accommodate the 10% Biodiversity Net Gain metric when secondary legislation is implemented, under the Environment Act 2021 (Box 3.3, pages 56 - 57 of the BNG Study);
4. That the BNG Study be finalised for uploading on the Local Plan evidence webpage.