Opportunity For Landowners To Earn Income From Biodiversity Offsetting

11th September 2013

The majority of planning consents for development sites stipulate as a condition that the developer must provide compensation for biodiversity loss resulting from development activity, and in some instances stipulate that a new area for habitat/ biodiversity offsetting has to be created.

The value of this land used as biodiversity offsetting should not be undervalued – it may be the key to enabling the development to be implemented. Understanding what value it holds is a complex issue, as consideration needs to be given to things such as the value of the development, the planning conditions, timescales, and the demand and supply in the area.

Although developers have been agreeing habitat/biodiversity offsetting areas with landowners for some time, DEFRA have been considering how a more measurable Biodiversity Offsetting scheme may be introduced in England and last week launched a public consultation on it.

The proposed biodiversity offsetting scheme is being piloted in six areas; Doncaster, Devon, Essex, Greater Norwich, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire including Coventry and Solihull. In these areas developers can choose to use offsetting as compensation for biodiversity loss, and can either provide the offset themselves or use an offset provider.

The measurement is made in “biodiversity units”, which are the product of the size of an area, and the distinctiveness and condition of the habitat it comprises. An offset provider (i.e. landowner) will have a certain number of units which can then be sold to a developer who requires a certain number of units to offset the loss of biodiversity resulting from the development. The offset provider maintains ownership and control of the land, all they are selling are the units of biodiversity.

Offsets can involve habitat expansion or restoration (such as hedgerow and woodland planting, restoring wetlands, improved pasture) and as an offset provider you have to produce a Biodiversity Offset Management Plan explaining what you will do. An offset provider can be an individual or organisation who is willing to implement a conservation project, resulting in biodiversity benefits for use as offsets.

As an offset provider you may have a simple project involving the creation of a new area of habitat which provides direct compensation for a single specific development, or you could have a larger multi-habitat site on which the units of biodiversity created are used by a number of different developers in compensation for several different schemes.

DEFRA’s consultation runs until early November and hence it will be interesting to see what response they receive.

Whether or not this proposed scheme is implemented, developers are continually looking for areas to utilise for habitat creation/biodiversity offsetting to comply with the conditions of their planning consent. Therefore if you have an area that may be suitable for this use please do get in touch to discuss further, and most importantly do not undervalue your land!

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