One of our Ifield residents has been trying to get more detail from Homes England about how they will meet their promises on Bio-diversity.

This is their response:

I am writing in reply to your email in relation to Biodiversity net gain and your concerns that it will only occur in a small part of the site. We will look to create a 10% net gain for the entire site, so your calculation of a loss of 47.5% is not correct. 

Biodiversity net gain is calculated using information from field surveys that identify the size of the different habitats on site and importantly, their different conditions. Our ecologists are in the process of surveying the site to obtain up to date, accurate and more detailed information on the site’s different habitats to provide the data for these calculations. We will use the field surveys to inform the masterplan and as we refine our plans, we will take the recommendations of our ecologists to ensure we integrate the ecological improvements needed to deliver on our commitment of achieving 10% biodiversity net gain for the whole of the West of Ifield site. 

Biodiversity net gain has a number of objectives and the first is to ensure that the ‘more ecologically valuable habitats’ are protected from development. In this context, our plans will protect the Ifield Brook and Ifield Brook Meadows from development. 

A second key point is that some existing habitats have a low ecological value which means that they support very few species of plants and animals – examples of this include amenity grassland that has been treated with chemicals or fields that have been intensively farmed, both of which occur within the boundary of the proposed development. A biodiversity net gain approach means that we will replant these areas to create habitats which have a significantly higher biodiversity. Depending on the characteristics of each part that is replanted, this could include a species rich hedgerow, native woodland, and wildflower meadow etc. 

There can be ecologically valuable habitats that are in poor condition, such as a pond that is affected by non-native fish or a chalk grassland. In these cases, a biodiversity net gain approach would involve investing to address these problems so that the habitat condition is improved. 

By protecting the most ecologically valuable parts of the site and improving the types and condition of other habitats within the new parks and open spaces planned for the proposed development, we can achieve 10% biodiversity net gain for the site as a whole. This means that overall there will be more natural diversity on site after development is completed than before. Alongside this enhancement, we will be able to make approximately 50% of the land usable for new homes and community facilities and the other requirements of the community. 

You can find out more about biodiversity net gain by viewing this short video from Natural England or reading these case studies from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management where you can find a  case study on St Leonard’s Hospital scheme where we undertook significant environmental improvements (case study 5). 

I hope that this explains our approach and how we can create a net 10% biodiversity gain for the whole site. If you have any additional questions, please do get in touch. Once the new surveys have been completed and their results analysed we will be in a position to share more detailed and specific plans on our approach.

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