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ToughButterCup

Ecology and Planning: Environment Act 2021

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Quick Heads Up!

The degree of interference (as some would have it) that ecology inserts in the planning cycle is sometimes substantial. 

Thats is why we need to keep an eye on the Environment Act 2021. And who better to boil it down than Martin Goodhall. 

 

Quote

...

Many of these points will no doubt become clear in time, and will be refined and perfected as practical experience is gained in the operation of these provisions and procedures. In the meantime, however, the final message of Tom Graham’s paper, and of the whole seminar, was to emphasise the crucial importance of familiarisation and training of personnel at all levels, for developers, their staff and their professional advisers, as well as local planning authority staff. Two years is not as long as it may seem in which to get to grips with the new regulatory regime.

....
(Link above: downloaded December 2021)

 

On our build, lack of awareness of the detail of ecology legislation and processes resulted in excess expenditure - of about £5000 or so. 

Can't take a joke? Don't self build.

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Interesting read.

 

So developers will have to prove BNG, Biodiversity Net Gain.

 

That seems a contrary thing to me.  You will have to prove that taking a bare piece of land that might have been left to nature for years (like our plot was) and "prove" that by clearing the plot and building a house on it, is going to increase it's biodiversity.

 

That seems a pretty contradictory thing.  How can putting a house on a site increase biodiversity?  Logically it does the opposite.

 

I can see developers now taking the stance of trashing a potential development site so virtually eliminate all wildlife from it, so they can claim by building some houses and leaving a bit of wild space they will increase the biodiversity.

 

As for plots like ours?  I see it being very difficult if not impossible to prove that building a house on our site could possibly ever increase the biodiversity of what was there, unless I had first trashed what was there to make it a sterile wasteland.

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Just occured to me to itemise the lessons learned on our build.

As as result of my experience and reading , were I to build again at a location where ecology is a factor to be considered, I would;

  • a full year before talking to anyone about planning permission, kill any local wildlife that interfers with the build process
  • appoint an ecology adviser who did as I instructed
  • read all the other ecology reports for planning applications within 2 miles of the intended build
  • copy every single one of them and 
  • from those reports, make plans to compensate for the outcomes negative to my intended build
  • make grandiose offers of 'compensation' 
  • renage on those offers at the end of the build

Thats what happens - has happened (references available on request) - locally  for the last 5 years at least.

In terms of ecology, we have paid several thousand pounds in effort and money for no outcome that can be measured.  Naive no longer.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, ProDave said:

... unless I had first trashed what was there to make it a sterile wasteland.

 

We were writing the same thing at the same moment.  '.... kill any local wildlife ....' above.

 

Well disposed to the local ecology or not, its hard not to be cynical.

 

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Proof as ever that bureaucracy becomes self sustaining disturbingly quickly.

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I'm not sure about that (self-sustaining) , without bureaucracy we had something worse. Without it, many of us would have (well, I would have) been dead some time ago .  It's how that bureacracy is operationalised that is the key.

 

And, in this context, it seems all the more likely that the target - a Net Gain in BioDiversity - will be achieved easiest by artificially  reducing  relevant markers first, and then 'adding value' . 

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18 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

I'm not sure about that (self-sustaining)

You haven't seen the project management department at work!

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25 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

And, in this context, it seems all the more likely that the target - a Net Gain in BioDiversity - will be achieved easiest by artificially  reducing  relevant markers first, and then 'adding value' .

The people that dream up these rules have no idea of the real world and that is the only way most developments will be able to happen.

 

Why can't they set a realistic target like "do all you can to minimise reduction in biodiversity"

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2 hours ago, dnb said:

You haven't seen the project management department at work!

 

I accept @dnb that all too often sight of the end-in-mind is lost , but - in relation to the concept (bureaucracy) - do you have a better answer? Because if you have, lets hear it.

Benign Dictatorships work well for a bit, but then there's the issue of succession:  on top of which our partners will be asked at interview for a high level post - straight faced - whether the partnership  intends to have children. Its fashionable to knock bureacracy - I do it too.

 

But what else is there that's even hints a fairness?

 

Quote

Some of the larger housing developers are already familiar with BNG, and have test flown their own biodiversity metrics. Similarly, a number of LPAs have developed BNG as a development management tool. Now this is all to be put on a statutory basis, and Natural England’s official Metric will become the sole benchmark, with which all developers and LPAs must comply. Present expectations are that this will come into force in about two years’ time.

 

That organ (Natrual England) is full of people whose one remit is to focus on Nature. Not look at the wider picture of the need for sites in relation to the local wildlife population

 

Lets say I'm a BuildHubber. I'm determined, hard working, running a successful business and politically savvy. Looking for sites for my next self-build. By 2022, I'm going to have to be putting money aside to pay someone to;

  • drop every last big tree around my prospective site
  • pollute every pond for a mile or two around
  • pay for a bat survey that finds no bats for some reason
  • make sure the farmer sprays his fields nearby - to buggery.
  • appoint my ecologist to advise me on the minimum I can do just get over the threshold of the NA (Natural England) criteria.

I could have done all of that for less than the £5000 it cost me to exclude our GCNs a few years ago. 

 

 

 

BTW, I love our GCNs: once you see a baby GCN I defy anyone not to: in the sunlight, they're like a piece of jade sparkling on you finger.

Edited by ToughButterCup

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1 hour ago, ProDave said:

...

Why can't they set a realistic target like "do all you can to minimise reduction in biodiversity"

 

Because that's negative. Demonstrating a negative is difficult and sometimes impossible.

 

The opposite -  a nett gain to use their terminology - implies (demands ? ) audit to  establish the baseline. Hence the massive incentive to destory well before the audit takes place.

Christ-On-A-Bike I see enough of it happening every month locally already.

 

 

Its OK, Thoroughly Modern Matron will be along in a minute with my tablets. 

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17 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

BTW, I love our GCNs: once you see a baby GCN I defy anyone not to: in the sunlight, they're like a piece of jade sparkling on you finger.

That is the issue.  I am sure most of us love wildlife.  I love the burn and the wildlife it brings.  We put out bird feeders in the winter and love seeing the range of small and not so small birds in the garden.  I love seeing the bats flying about at dusk (no bat survey required and no action taken to protect them, but by some miracle. without any "help" they are here in abundance).

 

And I am sure most of us would not knowingly do anything to harm wildlife (well except if I knew a way to persuade the moles to stay in the field and not come under our garden)

 

But I am also sure that this plot, which had been untouched for nearly 30 years and was turning to scrub, would have been better for wildlife if we had not come and built a house on it, and laid most of it to something we occasionally refer to (optimistically) as a "lawn"

 

And THAT is the problem.  Just how do you prove you have increased the biodiversity of the land by building a house on it.  Now if I had dosed the whole lot with multiple applications of Glyphosate so it was a barren wasteland before I submitted planning, then I could demonstrate an increase in biodiversity.

 

Sadly that is what is going to happen.  A well intentioned but impossible law intended to help wildlife will have the opposite effect.

 

Which brings us to the debate, do we build ANY houses on bare land?  If you take this law to it's conclusion, the only place building would be allowed is on brown field contaminated, previously used land with all the decontamination costs it has, but at least you would improve the biodiversity.  Sites like ours would just be left for nature. So now nature is more important than homes for humans.  Can of worms well and truly opened.

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11 hours ago, ToughButterCup said:

 

But what else is there that's even hints a fairness?

 

Only the strictest possible definition of what any government can touch / regulate. No way to extend these limits (like US have done with "Interstate commerce"). 

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On 01/12/2021 at 12:29, ToughButterCup said:

do you have a better answer?

No. Not a better answer. Putting someone like me in charge of anything usually results in some kind of disaster...

 

We do, however, need a process to combat such organizations when it becomes clear to all outside that it now mostly exists to forward the organisation itself and not the thing it was originally created to achieve. This is usually frowned upon because it usually costs jobs.

 

Regarding the original point of dealing with this legislation by removing the wildlife before putting in planning - it's already happening with the scheme we have. I know I looked at my land very carefully before submitting planning. I didn't do anything other than removing lelandii trees that were far too big and a diseased oak stump though. I am fairly sure that I definitely have not aided bidiversity. I couldn't even stop my woodpeckers from destroying the bat boxes I put up to satisfy a planning condition.

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