Lichfield District Council: Driving nature recovery
The Driving Nature Recovery project works to create bigger, better, and connected habitats as part of early implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). As a trailblazing authority, Lichfield produced its own biodiversity metric and a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) in 2016. By building on national policy and its own planning policies, Lichfield has mandated a net gain requirement of 20% for all major developments.
The ‘Lichfield Model’ was created to halt and reverse biodiversity loss caused by development and allow long-term re-establishment of a cohesive local habitat network. This has been delivered both through offsetting schemes on council-owned land, as well as habitat creation schemes delivered privately by developers.
The council has implemented standardised and enforceable planning conditions which mandate that sites are ecologically monitored for at least 25 years. The team is also working to produce standardised Section 106 agreements to bolster the strength of the programme.
The work done by the council has allowed the team to assist other local planning authorities in Staffordshire to prepare for the introduction of mandatory BNG of 10%, expected in November 2023.
Lichfield’s SPD provides clarity and transparency in the planning system for developers, officers and residents. The standardised approach with clear options ensures applications can be assessed more easily, making delivery of biodiversity protections much easier.
The council’s ecology team has increased the number of planning applications assessed and consulted upon each year by 140%, without requiring the allocation of additional staffing resources. This model has secured the creation and enabled restoration and enhancement of approximately 50 hectares of lowland heathland, 20 hectares of woodland, alongside significant gains in wildflower meadow and wetland areas.
Lichfield is currently delivering six biodiversity offsetting schemes on council-owned land and has secured around £3m through developer contributions that will fund the delivery of habitat creation and restoration work over a period of 25-30 years. This has helped stimulate a burgeoning local economy delivering sustainable growth through habitat conservation and restoration.
The ecology team’s work has led to its involvement in numerous biodiversity partnerships at local, regional, and national levels. Firstly, it has worked with the Nature Recovery Network which outlines the existing picture of the district’s nature network and describes key locations where habitats may be created or enhanced to contribute to nature’s recovery.
The council has also launched the Lichfield District Land Search project that assesses and highlights where land is, or may be, available for biodiversity delivery offsetting. This work is alongside other landowners, organisations, and buyers and sellers of green finance.