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OFFSETTING

Offsetting

Offsetting is a growing trend here in the U.K. , put basically it’s a way for developers to fulfil their environmental obligations by paying money into a fund , normally administered by local councils that can then be used for various local projects , such as supporting wildlife projects. From 2023 all developers will have to offset their developments impact by paying to enhance or create habitat either on the development site or fund work elsewhere. Given the government’s target for nearly 300,000 new houses a year plus all the infrastructure that goes with new builds , roads , schools etc that’s going to be a lot of investment .

One school of thought is that with smaller developers, you would achieve better results if the funding was joined up funding one major project in each region. Here’s my idea , use the money to establish a national network of wildlife corridors covering the whole country and the give this new creation protection by declaring it a new National Park ? Where the corridor is dissected by major transportation links , roads and train tracks build wildlife bridges and tunnels like the ones installed in the National Parks of North America.

I have just returned from one of the North American National Parks , Banff. Together with its neighbour Jasper these two parks cover an area of around 18,000 sq Km. Development here is problematic, the town of Banff for example can not expand its footprint .No greenfield development here and the whole park is dedicated as a wildlife refuge. To put this into prospective, England on its own covers an area of approximately 130,000 sq Km . Only seven times the size of Banff & Jasper combined, but has a population of nearly 56 million , so the Banff model of zero greenfield development obviously would not work .

But is it not time to at least put nature here in the U.K. on equal footing with new development ?

2 replies »

  1. An interesting post. We have had three >100 dwelling developments in my village in recent years, and in each case the environmental impact assessment has identified the green fields over which the development is proposed is of low agricultural value and in terms of biodiversity is largely a monoculture. Protected species such as great crested newts have been isolated, collected and transferred to other sites, while bird and bat life has largely been downplayed. However, because of development in potential flood risk areas, large attentuation ponds have been installed and in at least one case this has created a wildlife area that one year later is blooming with life. I strongly suspect environmental obligations will continue to be mitigated through on site works such as this rather than actual payments to local communities or even local authorities. Indeed, even our UK National Parks are currently under threat from the plans from our government to enrich themselves rather than the environment, but I applaud the idea.

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    • I agree , however smaller developers who build much smaller numbers of houses at one time and I’m thinking about the ones that build on sites of less than 10 houses may not have the experience or space to enhance the developed site , but will still have to paid the fee from 2023. The National parks are at risk , no doubt and they need safeguarding at the very least.
      Expanding and linking the parks could be achieved with a variety of options , central funding , developer offsetting plus agreement from landowners , similar to when a new National footpath is formed.

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