Biodiversity Offsetting – the consultation and what needs to be said

Biodiversity offsets ‘are conservation activities designed to deliver biodiversity benefits in compensation for losses in a measurable way’ [1]

So says the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Government body in charge of overseeing development control within England. We call offsetting ‘compensation for wildlife loss caused by development’.

At its simplest, offsetting through the planning process sets a value on the habitat or species affected by a development and for which the developer has to make recompense. Normally the compensation is delivered in the form of newly created habitat but what sort of habitat, and where, are all up for discussion.

The Government is very keen to see if a biodiversity offsetting scheme would work in England and to that aim Defra has produced a consultation paper for comments on the idea and some of the processes.

Do we think that this scheme is a good idea? Well, as I have said before the current planning  system is not working. Despite all the protection given to ancient woodland. Currently there are 380 ancient woods threatened by development, and other habitats and species fare even worse. Nature struggles to be given the priority it deserves when pitched against the needs of the economy.

Woodland stream - WTPL/Steven HighfieldCould offsetting deal with these problems? The Trust supports the concept of a scheme (while continuing to challenge the destruction of each woodland habitat) because it should help in part to improve recognition of the importance of, and place real value on, what green spaces offer.

Within the existing planning regime offsetting plays an informal role in the process, mostly associated with larger applications and operated in a very ad-hoc fashion with no structure or common standards. As a result of this consultation, England could see the development of a national scheme with clear guidance on how to implement an offsetting programme which would introduce controls and standards for decision-makers to use. Guidance would also take the onus away from individual planning authorities and support a consistent approach.

We need to be realistic about what an offsetting scheme can do – the biodiversity losses of the last 50 years are not going to be reversed – but an offsetting scheme could deal with the damage currently being caused by poor development control.

Done properly, a scheme could be a welcome and explicit way of  ensuring any developer pays for environmental damage endorsed by the planning system, in a way which doesn’t happen now. Done badly, it could simply provide developers with a ‘licence to trash the environment’.

Any scheme must have the best interests of the environment at its core. It should also set in place some firm principles about who, what, where, when and why offsetting should be used. But this Government is pushing a “development first” message and has shown unease with regulation and guidance so getting any scheme right from an environmental point of view will be exceptionally hard work; and this is where you come in!

The Trust see this consultation as an opportunity to ensure any scheme does not become the ‘licence to trash’ that we and so many others fear it could. This is an important but complex debate, so we have set up a variety of ways for people to join in – including giving Defra your personal take on what is ‘valuable’ to you about the natural environment, and the chance to have your say about the idea of ‘offsetting’ in principle.

I will return to some of the key issues and explain some of the risks and opportunities we see in the proposed scheme in further blogs in a short series between now and the end of the consultation:

  •  The ‘mitigation heirarchy’ and offsetting
  • The impact of including ancient woodland in an offsetting scheme
  • Localism and what matters to a community when losing, and gaining, a habitat
  • Management and compensation packages in an offsetting scheme

Please keep an eye on the blog for the latest and do get involved in the conversation – your views will help us shape our own submission. We all have until November 7th to get in a response.

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In the meantime you can find further information about the consultation and our concerns here.

Frances Winder, Conservation Policy Adviser


[1] The Natural Choice; securing the value of nature. HM Government 2011: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8082/8082.pdf

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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127 Responses to Biodiversity Offsetting – the consultation and what needs to be said

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  4. Just like the rainforest, man is destroying everything for greed nothing will stop them. I only wish that there was a solution. Brian Jeffreys

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  7. Gary Woodhouse says:

    Since when did developers have second thoughts about anything other than profit? All the rest is just words

  8. Anthony Powell says:

    There’s usually a reason why land has been reserved for wildlife. Sometimes it was reserved for a lord’s pursuits, more often it was either a pig to farm or a pig to build on. Modern bulldozers can work wonders, though! On housing estate near us, the developer had plans for houses (we’re talking 1960s) where a mere was. He discovered it was fed by a spring; didn’t stop him, but the houses were placed to avoid the worst of it. No sign of the wildlife-rich mere now.
    Another development, now in progress, has seen a brownfield site levelled. There were some great trees there, along with historic architecture and some Japanese Knotweed. (Don’t know if the latter was properly dealt with.) What’s wrong with building around the great trees and historic bits?
    Established woodland generally has a high and pretty steady store of carbon, new woodland is busy absorbing carbon to catch up. Destroy established woodland and that carbon, in the wood and soil, goes into our atmosphere. I’ve yet to see the wood put to good use, And it will take many years for the growing woodland to bank all that carbon.
    So we need a new building philosophy, that doesn’t turn a site into a blank sheet, but looks carefully at what’s there, and goes creatively around that. Far more interesting!

  9. Helen Betts says:

    Restoration of some habitats is possible. If the reports are to be believed Twydord Down now has more grassland at the same or increased nature conservation value than it did prior to the M3 development. ( I will not comment on the spiritual, historic value of the site or the eyesore created as that is not under debate here). However most grassland in the UK is a man made or managed environment and therefore relatively easy to recreate. Has anyone managed to recreate an ancient woodland?? With all the mycorrhizal and invertebrate associations! How much would it cost? If no one has managed to do it yet ( and I don’t know of any that can be created in 10 or even 20 years) wouldn’t that set our ancient woodlands as priceless? Or at least start a wave of restoration research? Who will be in charge of setting the BO.
    As for a book to inspire the next generation I recommend “Feral” by George Monbiot. Government ministers do not know enough to make the long term decisions, they ignore recommendations even from Natural England and we cannot just offset what is to be lost but what has been lost already. How can we offset a site if it already has only half or a third of the wildlife it once had.
    I am for BO for man made sites but do not think that natural landscapes of ancient or semi ancient woodlands are understood enough to recreate within a realistic timescale or that enough value will be placed on them.

  10. Claire says:

    The proposal is simplistic but I wonder how many developers would take up the scheme and follow it through. It will be draining for them financially and economically and not a simplistic solution in the long term.
    HS2 is due to rampage through 33 ancient woodlands, I wonder where the offsetting and compensation will be for that
    I do hope that the above eloquent and informed comments are placed before DEFRA and that they are taken on board and that a less intrusive solution for future development is adopted, ie the use of brownfield sites. Offsetting is cosmetic though I accept that in some instances this has been successful.
    Every wild piece of land that is developed is lost forever, that is a tragedy for us and future generations.

  11. Nimue Brown says:

    Woods are more than just trees. Meadows are more than just grass. Streams are more than just water. We’re talking about delicate and complex ecosystems, developed over vast time frames, each connected to the underlying soil, to fungi in the soil, to the rock types beneath and the surrounding environment. Planting a few trees some other place CANNOT replace ancient woodland. Please government, understand the science of what makes up an environment, because right now you are not seeing the wood, for the trees.

  12. Mike Guddat says:

    Too many people. Ring-fence SSSI’s, ancient woodlands and any other remaining protected and irreplaceable habitats in a legislative ring of steel. Unless we look at solutions to stabilise population growth, and stop allowing ‘essential development’ to take precedence over such ‘protected’ sites, their loss is bound to continue. The proposed legislation may have some limited scope in replacing less important sites under threat in the foreseeable future, but that’s about it. Prime sites must be absolutely non-negotiable and I suspect this proposed legislation is a distraction at best and at worst will undermine the protected status of such sites even further.

    • Robert Smith says:

      I feel that ring-fencing is essential. Whether it be an ancient tree or an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a Wetland. Or any area where their is a micro-diversity system in place. But we also need to consider our children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, etc . They need somwhere to live and work in the future. At what point do the brownfield sites run out ? If there is a village in an AONB where some of our ‘grand-children’ want to live and work do you allow the building of – say – four cottages in an area of 10 square miles ? You limit the numbers for the next 100 years. You ring fence areas with statutory limitations. I cannot see that Ancient trees – let alone woodland – can have a monetary value. Ring fencing and legal restrictions are essential. Can someone give me an example of BO ? We have a finite resource of an island. Where does the BO take place ?

  13. Mark Osland says:

    Wow, it’s certainly a passionate subject……….
    I had my say yesterday and I’m following this with interest.
    I’m beginning to feel that we may have to look at some form of compromise, and I think the answer is starting to surface from all the posts………
    If we can quantify AW and give it a BO value, perhaps this would make it much less financially attractive to developers????
    We won’t be able to stem the tide of development but perhaps it could be diverted to brownfield sites by making them a more profitable option……

  14. It is of vital importance to start using the Localism Act 2011 NOW. The first steps are simple. Each local area in the country (defined by locals themselves) needs to start forming a Neighbourhood Forum, either as a Parish Council or as a local forum of individuals and businesses.

    This Forum must decide on the Neighbourhood Area they want designated, and apply to have the boundaries approved. If it is the Parish Council that is doubling as the Neighbourhood Forum, then the boundaries will be the existing parish ones. If not, the boundaries will have to have a reason for proposing them (probably a geographical reason where new uses of areas have crossed old parish boundaries).

    Then this Forum must draw up a Neighbourhood Plan for its Area. This Plan can be a lot simpler than the kind produced by Local Authorities. The one for Upper Eden in Cumbria, the first past the post under the Localism Act, is efficient but simple and not long. It says exactly how many affordable houses are needed in the Area, and how many more expensive houses are desired (not many in Upper Eden, and they are to be in groups of not more than 4 and must blend with local traditional style).

    These Neighbourhood Plans sweep aside all other proposals from Local Authorities. It sounds too good to be true, until you realise that the Localism Act 2011 was imposed on all members of the United Nations by the UN. Many nations will enact something like the Localism Act, and then try to pretend it does not exist, whichever party is in power. Many nations will not even begin to obey the UN, even on paper, but the UK has.

    Why did the UN twist the arm of national governments? Because the natural world cannot be saved unless local people have more power to dictate (yes dictate) what their local environment looks like. “Think globally, act locally” – you know it makes sense.

    The law is section 61G of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, inserted by Schedule 9 of the 2011 Localism Act. It is worth printing out this Schedule in full – it is 11 pages. It is no harder to understand than a car manual, or instructions for furniture assembly, and anyway there is a lot of government guidance available free on the internet too.

    Section 61 must be in keeping with the general aims of the Local Plan – but Local Plans always express, on paper, lofty aims concerning Environmental Wellbeing and Social Wellbeing as well as Economic Wellbeing (which in any case now depends o the first two rather than the first two depending on the third as has been the case in the past). Then when Local Planners move into deciding what and where to build, they bin the sections of the Local Plan to do with the Environment and Social Cohesion. So all that any Neighbourhood Plan would do, if banning various unsustainable forms of Development, would be actually adhering to the Local Plan.

    Get it? It’s easy when you know how! It’s called making the law-makers obey their own laws. Not many courts will disagree with you, if you want to go to court about it. Don’t forget to use the ACTUAL LAW. It is not a rattlesnake, you can pick it up and use and nothing dreadful will happen. You have to show the Law to the judge though – they have too much on their plate and cannot keep track of all the new laws, especially the ones stemming from the UN. Many judges in the lower courts are just former Solicitors – nice enough, but not equipped mentally to cope with “think globally act locally” in legal terms.

  15. Duncan White says:

    Wow! Everyone’s so negative. I actually think this – if the details are right – could be a good idea. Railing against population growth and development is just futile (Canute tried that with the tide, if you’ll recall). Development is going to continue, and offsetting may give a mechanism to harness development to grow overall woodland coverage in the UK, which I believe is a key goal for the Woodland Trust. I completely agree with the point that ancient woodland is far more valuable than new woodland, and sacrificing an ancient woodland at all is a last ditch option. But in a case where it is necessary, why don’t we define *how much more valuable* we believe ancient woodland to be than new woodland – say 10 times more valuable – and seek to enact legislation that would require a developer who demolishes a 1 acre ancient woodland to purchase 10 acres of land nearby, plant it, maintain it for 50 years and put it into public ownership? If you don’t like 10x, fine, pick a better number. That would put a significant practical cost on developers, which would discourage some from incurring the costs, and be genuinely useful to grow woodland cover where development conflicts with an ancient woodland.

    • King Cahute, a great and good man, got fed up with his nobles and courtiers constantly making greedy demands on the legislature and on him. He tried to show them that even a King with Divine Right (which Kings had in those days) could not grant all their requests, or wave a magic wand and make their personal wishes come true.

      He orderd his Chair to be set in the shallows, and then showed them how even he could not make the tide turn back. They were that stupid, he had to go to those lengths.

      It seems nothing much has changed – including the ability to turn a story completely on its head if it suits you.

    • Andy White says:

      The problem with this is that it is still all about numbers Duncan. Off setting is a scam precisely because of the implicit placing of material value on the irreplaceable. What we need to be communicating is the pricelessness if not the sacred quality of ancient Woodland. Off setting is no more than Old Testament ‘eye for an eye’, and we all know that leaves us all blind.

  16. Thomas Derek Axe says:

    Planet Earth will always be our only home. Everywhere we look we can see real need to take better care of what we have. For ‘off-set’ read abdicate. There must be no loss of any of our natural woodlands and our elected Government must promote the replanting of deciduous woodland so that what we enjoy today, will be enjoyed in another 500 years. As for HS2 and other infrastructure projects, I would argue that these can still be delivered in such a way that can benefit our environment. A train with 500 passengers seems a better bet than 500 cars travelling on a widened M1 or M6.

  17. William Evans says:

    I agree that Ancient Woodland should be treated as a special category in any consideration of offsetting; it is clearly impossible to ‘compensate’ in any meaningful way for the loss of such historic and important parts of our environment. I also feel that, in general, considerable protective barriers must be maintained against any presumption that it is acceptable to build on greenfield sites when adequate brownfield sites are available for development in a locality (even if development of the latter incurs some extra financial outlay).

  18. Michael Somerset Ward says:

    What else can we expect from a government which can appoint and then continue to support an environment minister such as Patterson. This is a government which has clearly shown it has no regard for the environment at any level unless to exploit it for short term profit or to gain favour from wealthy supporters such as large land owners.
    The farcical and disgraceful badger cull is a good example of a minister and department in complete disarray, incapable and incompetent flying in the face of science, public opinion and common sense in order to appear to be doing something, anything despite it being wrong.
    Off setting especially where ancient woodland and other long established habitat is concerned is a frightening idea and a real threat to many habitats. As others have pointed you can not mitigate the loss of ancient woodland however many whips you may plant. It seems that dismantling the planning system and the scant protection that purported to offer to our valuable green spaces/woodland etc. is now not enough, what is left will now be under the hammer to the highest bidder and as long as you promise to dig a new pond or plant a bit of new hedgerow you can get on with it. This is a smoke screen and a dangerous one if allowed to have any credibility, it should be questioned at every opportunity and by as many organisations, individuals and politicians as possible and held up to the closest scrutiny by those qualified to do so.

  19. I’m not sure developers will ‘feel’ it if you charge them a Biodiversity Offsetting charge – it might just be a bit like asking a millionaire for £1. Those boys make serious money unfortunately.
    Carol

  20. HollyBlue says:

    Our ancient woodlands have evolved over many years – it is simply not posible to “buy” that time. The complexity of the woodland habitats and their species are not fully understood – science still has a very long way to go and new species are still being discovered. The idea of putting a monetary value on environmental “assets” – to value the asset as a natural habitat and not a resource for exploitation such as mining or forrestry – is quite a new one. It seems to me that the first thing we need to debate is how this valuation is to be done and I feel that we are in uncharted territory here. The developers will of course be pushing for the lowest valuation and the government will be listening to their views. We must make our concerns and opinions heard too. I am very concerned that our woodlands will be under-valued and this will leave them very vulnerable.

  21. ahardy66 says:

    I’ll make this as short as possible. I recently saw a great presentation on the Contraction and Convergence policy for global carbon emission credits. It explained in elegant detail how the world as a collection of nations could gain control and equitably reduce carbon emissions.

    How is this relevant to ancient woodlands? Very relevant, although I must explain it step by step.

    The reason why economic needs always trump nature, climate stability, clean air, sustainable fisheries, etc is because the value of these things cannot be immediately realised in money terms, or if so, then only in the long term.

    To counter this, policy makers have proposed a global carbon emission credit scheme to put direct monetary value on carbon, allowing the holder of the credit to emit x tonnes of CO2.

    Here’s the link: additionally anyone who proved that they had fixed CO2 out of the atmosphere would earn money from the carbon credits bank. The owner of woodland, because it absorbs CO2, would earn carbon credits as a results, to a quantity worked out by forestry people and botanists directly proportional to the size and type of woodland.

    There is research to show that at least in the big rainforests of western North America, primary forest absorbs a lot of carbon.

    If the owner felled the forest, they would lose their annual carbon credit earnings and have to pay for the tonnes of carbon released into the economy (timber on the open market like oil or gas would have to be paid for not just in cash but also in carbon credits).

    The government would obtain the carbon credits it needs for operation – e.g. fuel guzzling fighter jets in the RAF, fuel for poorly insulated civil service buildings all over the land, new lanes for the M25 etc – mostly from taxing the carbon credits that citizens receive annually from the central carbon credits bank. With their share of forest in the country though, they could also earn a large amount of credits.

    Ancient woodlands would thus shoot up in value in the move towards a low carbon economy – if only the world’s leaders would all agree to adopt Contraction and Convergence.

    Brazil and some other nations were supporting this direction at Copenhagen in 2009.

    Last time I heard a British politician mention C&C though, the comment was that it is “an elegant solution but the time is not right”. I suggest the time is more than right, the time is almost gone.

    Sorry about the lengthy explanation.

  22. Peter Unwin says:

    I totally agree with all the above staements

  23. Don’t include Ancient woodland in any proposals and designated woodland that is not ancient can be included but the off set must be more than what is damaged ie they damage or remove 100 non ancient trees they replace 300-500 trees …can we ask 38 degrees to become involved in this?

  24. I don’t trust it- if a woodland is an ancient one it will take many years to build up the biodiversity that the original one had and as a few others have already said where will the wildlife go until then ?

  25. lisa says:

    i think that families and tourists want to experience ancient natural sites (which may coincide with or relate to ancient archeological/structure/heritage sites) and we need to protect fully the unique nature of these sites. We also need accessible green spaces near to the places we live for exercise and to humanise our built up spaces. We also need to listen to associations like the ramblers society – ordinary people accessing for free, public foot paths in the countryside which should not be blighted untill brown field sites are no longer available.

  26. elizabeth says:

    Another sneaky idea from the goverment ! they dress the name up to sound enviromently friendly and think no one will notice ! where do they think all the wildlife will go while their new habitat is created , Owen Paterson is the worst enviroment minister I have ever known, he has no idea what hes doing apart from the destruction to habitat and the environment and the fact he likes killing wildlife as exposed this week regarding gassing badgers ! Im glad we can all see through the goverments latest scam !

  27. Lyn S says:

    Once gone, it’s gone for hundreds of years. we need to protect our natural woodlands and open spaces for our children and future generations to come.

  28. Dafydd says:

    How can you “offset” Ancient Woodland! It has taken hundreds if not thousands of years to create with all its inherent flora and fauna. Its a middle management speak dreamt up by this government to allow carpet bagger developers to ransack and destroy our unique and irreplaceable ancient woodland.

  29. Charlie says:

    Plant a tree in 1973, that is what we were being told then. I do not see much that has changed for the better since then, where are all these trees and hedges. The Government thinks we are green and believe we believe them !

  30. Ash says:

    Like many here, I too am sceptical about the current political agendas, from all parties. NO to BO! Once it’s gone, it’s gone! What is needed is a different view from everyone, one where NATURE is seen as being part of the economy, not separate from it. We are all in this together; there is only one EARTH!

    • Shelley Gillespie says:

      I couldn’t agree more! Spot on! If we are to survive much longer as a species we must look at the long term and stop interfering with nature. It is greed, not need that drives developers.

  31. Ernest Croley says:

    Offsetting can never work when the whole ethos is in favour of development. I do not think that it is possible to devise a scheme that reproduces an old landscape.. I recently had an argument with a local official who was deeply committed to the idea that a newly planted tree was worth more than an ancient one because it will last longer. Anyone who cares for and observes the natural environment will know that this is non-sense. Yet it seems to be far easier to tick the box that says offset rather than try to understand the complexities of the natural world.

  32. Gilmore Tricolour says:

    It used to be translocation, then came mitigation, now they suggest offsetting. It is habitat and wildlife destruction no matter what the latest name it masquerades under! It is raping our planet for profit with zero concern for the other beings who inhabit it and upon whom humans, who are often too slow to realise or acknowledge, rely.

  33. Bob pleb says:

    The whole idea stinks. Why would anyone with half a brain want to destroy ancient woodlands? Well, for profit. What other motive makes any sense?

  34. David Moss says:

    I cannot accept the concept of biodiversity offsetting as this simply gives legal permissions to developers to damage or destroy habitats or colonies of flora or fauna. Any artificially constructed offset measures can never fully replace that which has possibly taken centuries (or millennia) to evolve.

  35. Skimming through the 75 or so comments before mine it is crystal clear that the consensus is firmly against the idea of biodiversity offsetting and a range of different and convincing arguments have been deployed to bolster this near unanimous rejection. Still I will add my pennyworth to the avalanche of contempt this proposal has engendered. It seems to me that biodiversity offsetting is a bureaucratic fudge designed to give a surface appearance of concern and caring while actually giving would be developers a helping hand to destroy whatever inconvenient stretch of woodland (etc) gets in their way. It comes from the same stable as that spurious solution to global warming carbon offsetting – that simply substitutes legerdemain for concrete action.

    • Dan Johnston says:

      My concern as an environmental professional is that this debate isnt really getting us anywhere. We can all agree that ancient woodlands and other valuable habitats should be preserved, and that BO isn’t likely to be an effective measure for AW in particular. However, it can be useful in some circumstances, and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water by focusing the debate only on one habitat type. Just getting angry and indignant makes it easy for the Goverment to ignore your comments – coming up with positive suggestions for alternatives or for improvements to the legislation forces them to pay much more attention. I speak from experience organising public consultations, as the Environment lead on infrastructure projects, and also a successful lobbyist against local housing developments.

      • Jane D says:

        Fair point. Half a loaf is better than no bread. (If we are defeatist/realistic enough to accept that a whole loaf is not available.) In that case, we need a scientificand very detailed list of habitat types and their variations and an assessment of which can be replaced and which can’t. I still think it would be useful to put a monetary value on these habitats, to concentrate the minds of developers. And there need to be punitive penalties if the offsetting doesn’t happen.

        Maybe we should also bus the entire house of commons out to some serious woodland and make them wander about in it for a while. I do worry that so many people live in cities these days that they honestly don’t realise what they are losing. No wonder our society is in such bad shape.

  36. Dan Johnston says:

    Nearly all of this debate has focussed on ancient woodland, and maybe that is fitting as we are on a WT site, but it is important to remember that the BO legislation is about all different types of habitat. Some habitat types can be replaced much more quickly, and sometimes the guidelines to which it is done leave the wildlife with something better than they started with. For instance, if the surveys that a developer is obliged to commission find a population of a protected species clinging on in habitat that has become sub-optimal due to poor agricultural practices (e.g. a couple of ponds in poor condition surrounded by former species-rich grassland now in arable), and that habitat will be lost to development, the developer is obliged to replace the habitat. However, he can’t replace like for like – he is usually required to acquire a greater quantity of land for replacement than the habitat that was lost, and to prepare it as optimal habitat (i.e. ponds and surrounding terrestrial habitat designed and managed specifically for the needs of the species in question). I have personal experience of this, and it can be done and done effectively and quickly for some important habitat types.

  37. Janet says:

    I agree with some others here who say that offsetting is a lazy way to deal with a guilty conscience. However one environmental professional makes the point that development is going to happen and it is how we deal with it that matters. It is not just a question of population continuing to grow with each family unit needing its own ‘box’ to live in . How many of us older citizens are prepared to give up our privacy and go and live with our extended family. How many divorced and separated couples now need two ‘boxes’ instead of one? Whatever the reasons provision of houses and all that entails will remain a major issue, so how do we make this compatible with the needs of our precious woodlands and wildlife. It is not enough to protect isolated pockets of ancient woodland. We need corridors for wildlife to be able to connect and interbreed. Government needs to legislate so that protected habitats remain connected before we reach the position described in a poem I read many years ago about a family outing to see the last rabbit.(We are going to see the rabbit by Alan Brownjohn). I am old enough to remember the impact of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. Is there someone out there capable of writing an equally powerful case for the ‘Last rabbit’. I wish I could but alas I lack the skills.

  38. Paul Cloutman says:

    I forgot another point – since I am forbidden by law to pick or dig up and transplant any wild flower, any development activity within an ancient habitat will be doing just that – destroying plant material that is protected by law. I assume that ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’ means ignoring most laws to do with nature conservation wholesale.

    One plan to put forward would be to have an independent body with not just teeth, but fangs, to list, designate, grade and protect ancient habitats in the same way that ancient buildings are listed and protected.

    See? One law for property – nothing for the countryside! Typical.

    I know full well that most of the countryside we treasure is man-made, created by thousands of years of farming. Today, though, many farmers are doing very little to preserve biodiversity, since monoculture and prairie farming bring problems of their own – look what’s happening to bees.

    I’d like Woodland Trust to find some farmers to support their arguments against the blight of Biodiversity Offsetting. Any takers?

    • Catherine says:

      Great point on wild flower law here, does anyone know if this has ever been used in a case successfully? Also wouldn’t it be illegal to disturb nesting birds, take eggs, disturb bat species, newts etc etc… how do these developments get around this when it is impossible on an individual basis?

  39. Paul Cloutman says:

    Having been an advertising writer for many years, then a freelance contract writer for no fewer than 10 government departments and agencies, mainly during the Thatcher years – including the then MAFF – I am pretty certain I can smell a weasel in the words ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’.

    What it boils down to is mutual back-scratching – a quid pro quo – which works really well in the built environment. Many supermarkets have been given planning permission for major schemes providing that new civic amenities were provided. For example, I remember a sports field, green room and community centre being constructed by one supermarket developer in return for building on local authority owned land. Another involved major – much-needed – new road developments which also gained access to the supermarket. All well and good. That’s ‘offsetting’ in the built environment with new developments. Quids pro quos in spades.

    But when you’re dealing with the most certainly NOT new – ancient woodland and habitats / ecosystems developed over centuries and possibly millennia; you just CAN’T develop an ancient woodland, for example, and throw up a new one. There is absolutely no possibility that destruction of the ancient habitat can be offset by new plantings – you simply can’t wave a magic wand and recreate an entire ecosystem.

    I think it’s a con. And a cynical, mealy-mouthed con at that.

    Oppose it by all means possible.

    • David says:

      Not a weasel, but a big smelly rat! You are absolutely right, this is con, someones brainwave to leverage offsetting practices in the built environment and carbon offsetting to sanitise the destruction of irreplaceable habitats. Where are they going to find degraded sites to turn into pristine ‘ancient’ woodlands?

  40. Caspar says:

    I’m encouraged by commenters’ sceptical opinions above (especially Edith Crowther’s trenchant analysis). The fact is, we already know the government wants to sell off as much woodland as possible for short-term profit. I’m sure they’d love to flog it all, except for the part of it around Chipping Norton. As to whether we’re in danger of having a ‘licence to trash the countryside’, that already exists in the form of the government’s automatic presumption in favour of development. The government would rather see our beautiful ancient woodlands bulldozed for car parks and shopping malls if there was a few quid in it for them and their pals – they really are that stupid, brutal and greedy. This mentality must always be resisted, and we must have nothing to do with ‘biodiversity offsets’ or any similar flummery.

  41. Frances Naggs says:

    Under this government I think this is much more likely to become a licence to trash.
    you cannot replace ancient woodland with new planting, not without 100s of years passing!

  42. Jane Norman says:

    I have no faith that the Coalition is interested in the environment if there is no money to be made either for the Treasury or major business corporations. There are too many precedents . This is not worth the paper it will be written on

  43. martin rice says:

    Great to know that so many people really care about our environment. And it is OUR environment.We can never get it back! Went recently to see Fingle Wood – a lovely wood we need to save. It is not just paces like Fingle wood in Dartmoor that we should be fighting for. It is all those small local places, where birds and flowers live. And where people can flourish too….

  44. Brenda Mackintosh says:

    Anything goes these days it seems. Well not on my watch! While there is a tree or open space worth protecting I will do my best to keep it so. This green and pleasant land is fast becoming concreted over with superficial gardens in no way better than what nature has provided.
    If developers need to keep building houses, let them go abroad where there is space to do so.
    I love this island and enjoy progress in an all things but not to the detriment of nature.

  45. Tim Madgwick says:

    Our current society is borne from the Thatcher era, and the worst virtue of this is greed. It is not surprising therefore that the government thinks more of profit than it does of our natural environment which is seen as an irritant rather than an asset.
    Unfortunately, the guys in government have an inability to think outside of the box. More lateral thinking may present different options available to allow development (supposedly for the good of us all) whilst protecting what natural assets we have in this country. There are areas within most of our urban towns and cities which could be improved dramatically, to increase housing facilities and create an environment in which people can live and work locally without the need to commute.
    Population increase has been touched on before, and it is a real threat to our environment. People in this country want to live in their detached houses on their own bit of land, even if houses are only a metre apart. It is ridiculous. At some stage, housing will have to be consolidated, forming designed enclaves where open spaces can be created for communal use and natural habitat.
    Government should be seriously looking at a different approach to housing, encouraging developers to think positively about restrictive sprawl, stop building noddy houses on every available field, and make a huge difference to our environment.
    The countryside, our natural heritage, would be protected against abusive development, if there were real alternatives to the way our towns and villages are structured. I fear, however, that the government hasn’t the stomach or motivation to really think about the environment – although of course, they all say they do.

  46. Sue Rose says:

    Long ago a wise man said, “You can’t serve God and love money.”That God gave us humans the responsibility to “be fruitful and multiplyand to look after all of the earth and what lived on it. We’ve got a pretty mixed record! But we still have the responsibility to care and to speak for what can’t speak for itself, our beatiful wild countryside. I agrre with whats said about using brown field sites first and doing fill in building.
    Sue Rose

  47. Oh dear WT. There is so much wrong with the Biodiversity Offsetting green paper I’m surprised you’re not asking your members to rise up in horror at the idea of legislating for potentially one of the biggest greenwash disasters there’s been in England for a long time.

    I appreciate that for our environmental NGO’s biodiversity offsetting is going to be a tricky one to combat because it is those beloved NGO’s that are taking on the contracts to manage the offset sites. Something that I completely understand but that I feel should be transparent to the many communities that are turning to their trusted environmental NGO’s for support to fight developers only to be horribly disapointed with the response… or lack of one.

    http://saveourwoods.co.uk/?s=Biodiversity+Offsetting

    Above is a link to some independent commentary on Biodiversity Offsetting with information on how it has:
    spectacularly failed in every country that has tried it,
    how it will diminish even further the right to green space for communites,
    how it will, yet again, be an opportunity missed for ecologically sustainable development,
    that the long term/in perpetuity protection of the offset sites is incredibly weak,
    that the offset sites could be miles away,
    that offsets could be marketised & traded like carbon offsets (and we all know how successful that is),
    etc etc…

    Not forgetting the fantastical conflict of interest of Professor David Hill, who is deputy chair of Natural England and chairman of the Environment Bank. (the Environment Bank is the BO ‘broker’).

    I wonder how many of your members know that England is half way through a 2yr pilot programme to see if Biodiversity Offsetting works? In the link above you’ll find an analysis of the midterm report. It doesn’t look good.

    Are you in a Biodiversity Offsetting pilot area?

    Devon
    Doncaster
    Essex
    Greater Norwich
    Nottinghamshire
    Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

    Hen
    saveourwoods.co.uk

  48. David Walmsley says:

    Ancient Woodlands and SSSIs cannot be offset, less important sites possibly can but should only be permitted by an organisation with the scientific expertise such as The Environment Agency, not a Local Authority, who don’t have the in-house expertise and are more likely to be pressured by local councillors on behalf of local business men. This a way for big business to make more money. Big business men generally support the Conservative party with financial donations, therefore more money=more donations. Simples!

  49. As normal the Government are playing lip service to the environment, they are only interested in the money men who can do them favours, so the idea of off setting in general is a good idea for the future so that any building projects have forested areas both within their boundaries and in pre-designated new forests, but under no circumstances is it acceptable to start hacking forests or wooded areas down just to sick up a few houses or factories, there’s plenty of land available to build on, there’s those who’ll tell you that land is short’ that’s a total lie some of the largest supermarket chains and building companies have hundreds of hectors of land with nothing on it and they continue to acquire more land and still claim that they need more land to build on because there’s no brown field land left to build on, NO because they’ve bought it all, this is what is now the Government’s game with ” off setting ” they think that no one will notice when these companies start to buy up great chunks of the new forest to stick a new hypamarket on it or a new bunch of executive homes on it whilst still hanging onto their 100’s of hectors of brown field sites, so if these money men are forced into working with the environment and using their land to build on as apposed to getting their hands on green field land to build on and then sticking a few trees around the houses and claiming that as off setting which sadly is what I suspect they will do and be aloud to by a Government who doesn’t care.

  50. Shirley Rodgers says:

    Politicians do not care two hoots about our ancient woodlands and cannot be trusted. We must be very careful not to be tricked into agreeing with something which will make matters worse.

  51. vicky says:

    Offsetting could work in some situations but I don’t think ancient woods could be included in this. You could not replace what nature has spent generations achieving.

  52. Michael says:

    In prnciple I am against offsetting as such becaues if we are talking about ancient woodland then no developer can possibly replace that.If we are to consider any instances of this then the offset must as a minimum be reclamation of land that is contaminated.

  53. Mike Shayler says:

    I have to say I’m extremely concerned about this. Once again, the government is looking at economic issues over health, well being and what remains of our rural spaces. And it is so unnecessary. I travel all over the country for my work and in almost every town or city I visit I see vast areas of dereliction and neglect alongside the railways alone. I can think of several such areas around my home city. Surely these could easily be revamped or redeveloped first. This would make more sense as it would regenerate the urban environments, create work in closer proximity to areas of unemployment and, most importantly, leave our green spaces alone to be enjoyed

    • sandi Kitchin says:

      I agree there is a vast amount of derelict land and empty houses which are in areas where there is work and people in need of housing. The Developers always look for the easy profit. A small change to VAT could make refurbishment and reclaiming difficult land more attractive to the land grabbers, who already own large tracts of usable land. My village has very little employment but developers keep building ,ruining a lovely place and turning it into a sad wasteland. I am not a NIMBY, I do not own a detached house with land, just a small terrace. we are gradually being concreted over when there is really no need, many new builds here are standing empty. We value our environment, it’s a pity this government doesn’t. It all comes down to profit.

  54. Peter Cuthbert says:

    I do not trust offsetting. It is carried out to meet the requirements of developers they use people who can make a plausible case but they seem to ignore professional ecologists who supply facts which they are reluctant to hear,
    There are areas in large towns with derelict buildings which could be demolished and make way for development. These are already supplied by roads and would make for little environmental disruption. Let’s have a Royal Commission into the whole thing.
    Peter Cuthbert

  55. David Beresford says:

    Despite supporting much of what this government does I am appalled by its record on protecting and enhancing our green spaces.
    We simply cannot replace an ancient woodland in another place. They have developed over centuries and we cannot replicate the ecosystem and all its diversity.
    I do not trust the government on this issue. Developers must be rubbing their hands with glee. Perhaps they should be pushed much harder to develop all the brownfield sites they have in their enormous land banks before they touch our green spaces.

  56. Jenny Gladstone says:

    Well, by definition Ancient Woodland is at least 400 years old and so has taken at least 400 years to reach its current state of biodiversity. It is difficult to see how offsetting could compensate for this loss. Maybe if the developer is required to pay for maintenance for the offset for 400 years they might find a more economic place to develop.

  57. Jane D says:

    The government only thinks in terms of value. So put a value on the natural environment. The value should reflect such things as its usefulness in terms of planetary housekeeping, biochemical resources, and leisure facilities. The value should also depend on its beauty, rarity and relaceability. I think sheep-shorn pasture starts at about £10,000 per acre. An ancient woodland, which has an equivalent beauty, rarity and relaceability to, for example, a Picasso painting, ought to be around the £70 million mark. Would that slow the developers down?

  58. Mark Osland says:

    I have concerns about these plans………..we only have to look at previous situations to realise that this is nothing more than a get out clause for developers provided by the government.
    We are constantly being told that if we continue at current rates we will not be able to feed ourselves and yet, we are still looking at destroying more of the countryside.
    I’m assuming that if a developer builds on ancient woodland, as long as they take some farmland and plant something else, this will count as Biodiversity Offsetting??? This will reduce the amount of productive farmland available, and combined with the recent changes in planning laws, will do nothing to protect our countryside and ancient woodlands.

  59. Who can put a price on ancient woodland? The few remaining wild spaces in some areas? What percentage of our country has been deforested? Looking at it this way, the small percentage left is PRICELESS. There can be no offsetting with new woods, it is not the same. Leave alone. Build in places already ruined. What we need is real non-government/company led protection and conservation. We don’t say yes, let them kill pandas and replace them with cloned sheep. Not the same thing. Simply leave the wild places alone. Full stop. We need to look at population size, and better housing and communities. These things cannot be suggested by any interested parties. It needs to be dealt with by environmentalists, charities and scientists. Lets see if the government is interested in spending some time considering that. There are many things a government should do, but one is protecting people and environment. They cannot operate with business interests at the forefront, what about real ethical decisions? This is so easy. Forests and woods should remain. Find another way with the housing and developments. Utilise the huge areas that are no longer natural for human interests. Do not touch what is precious and rare. Leave it!

  60. Liane says:

    I work in a field that could greatly benfit from a biodiversity offsetting scheme as a means of raising often hard to source funding for large scale habitat improvements, and therefore support the scheme in principle. However I do feel that national guidelines and standards are essential to protect important habitats from destruction and fragmentation. As others have rightly said, our ecosytems are very fragile, and finely tuned, that have developed over hundreds and thousands of years. We cannot expect to build over them and assume that we can simply recreate them elsewhere. It doesn’t work that way. Managed correctly from the beginning then biodiversity offsetting could be an exciting opportunity, but if not then it will become a devopers perfect excuse to build where and how they like.

  61. Dan Johnston says:

    I am an Environmental professional dealing with major infrastructure development. I agree that key habitats should be protected from development, but in reality development is going to continue, and the issue is how we deal with it. Biodiversity offsetting is part of a hierarchy of options open to us when a site is threatened, which can be applied individually or in combination:
    1 – Avoid the impact by relocating the development or altering the design.
    2 – Reduce the impact by changing the design of the development.
    3 – Mitigate the remaining impact by providing replacement habitat within or the development.
    4 – Offset the impact by providing an equivalent biodiversity benefit somewhere else.
    Offsetting is therefore the last option after all others are exhausted. It has traditionally seen as something that doesn’t provide a direct replacement (so loss of a wood might be offset with a different type of biodiversity benefit), but to my mind that should change. Offsetting hasn’t been used a great deal, because it isn’t much needed after other options, because developers prefer to deal with their issues on site, and because it is little understood in the absence of guidance. If the new guidance is any good, it will give us an other weapon where on-site mitigation isn’t enough.

  62. Joy Crowe says:

    At least once I week I walk and I love to walk in woodlands; it makes me feel happy and calm. What we need is more woodland corridors to join some of the smaller, older woods together. I hope we can continue to fight to save the ancient woodlands, they are so special because they have had time for all the plants, flowers, insects and other creatures to develop.The Government seem to me to be in the pocket of big business’s and I feel that I can’t really trust them to keep their word.

  63. John Shirley says:

    I have always viewed offsetting as an abdication of responsibility and and have yet to be convinced otherwise!

  64. Caz Moore says:

    “Biodiversity Offsetting” This is another one of those stupid buzz words which nobody knows what it means, but will use anyway. The government take on this is, “Biodiversity offsetting ensures that when a development damages nature (and this damage cannot be avoided) new, bigger or better nature sites will be created. ”

    The main point of this is “when a development damages nature (and this damage cannot be avoided)” it is quite simple don’t build on the land, thus avoiding the damage, here comes the “Gift from the government” new, bigger or better nature sites will be created.” This will not happen, why give up a bigger site, why don’t they build on the bigger site in the first place, and leave the original site alone. This is all about money, as you can guarantee that the woodland sites are in expensive build areas, so the builder will make more per house. This has big fat lie written all over it from the government. And when they build these bigger woodlands etc how are they going to make the woods grow quickly and tell the animals where they are being moved too, do a leaftet drop.

      • Sandy says:

        Having read every comment until this particular spot and trying to unscramble the word ‘offset’ in my brain and assess its meaning it was such a relief to read the words above “why don’t they build on the bigger site in the first place and leave the original site alone”

  65. Suzanne says:

    Although it has already been said by earlier commenters, but I cannot see how this proposal will achieve anything to preserve what’s left of our precious ancient woodland or other diverse countryside and habitats. It’s merely a licence to cover the countryside in more concrete, more roads, more houses, more industrial estates while easing the conscience of some government minister while sanctioning ever more rampant development. Offsetting wil merely encourage greedy developers.

    What I’d love to see is cast-iron protection for our ancient woodlands, green belt land, SSSIs etc.. I have just returned from two long train journeys through parts of the country I had not recently visited and was horrified by the extent of the sprawl that is slowly eating into our countryside. I was also struck by the vast expanses of waste ground in relatively attractive locations (admittedly not far from the railway line but nevertheless just as pleasant as many modern, and older, housing developments that were closer to the line). I have long wished that no more greenfield building was allowed until all of these so-called brownfield sites had been developed. The counter argument has always been that it would cost developers more to clear a previously used site than to rip up hedgerows and ancient trees. As always, the central issue is cost/profit. A bit much to ask in these days of austerity, but I wonder how many people would be prepared to accept, say, an additional1p on their Council Tax if they knew it would be used to help fund brownfield clearance and help to protect treasured natural habitats? I imagine the idea would not be very popular!

    So, while there are so many people who place little so little value on the environment and on creatures other than their own species, I feel that we need far stronger laws / regulations to protect what is left. I don’t trust this proposed offestting to provide that protection.

  66. David says:

    Ecosystems develop diversity and complexity over many – maybe 100s – of years. We don’t understand all the details of what makes an ecosystem suitable for any particular species or
    complex of species. If we get it wrong, it may be years or decades before we know. But
    “success” will be trumpeted after a moch shorter time.
    All in all, a recipe for disaster.

  67. David Evans says:

    It will be a license to trash I’m sure, and given the complexity of ecosystems and our incomplete knowledge of their workings, how can we ever be sure that all the elements are can be recreated at another site, even assuming that the site has the appropriate soils and climate. Species richness resulting from continuity over centuries almost certainly can’t be replaced quickly. At the very least, if offsetting is proposed, it should happen well before the threatened site is destroyed so that the success or otherwise of the new creation can be judged before the old one has gone. This would allow missing species to be identified and then brought in while they still exist at the old site.

  68. Geoff Bell says:

    “Nature struggles to be given the priority it deserves when pitched against the needs of the economy” you say. You may be right, I would have said big business and possibly government, not the economy.

    It will always be a dilemma balancing the two and I fully support your reservations. You cannot (at least not in the short or medium term) replace 500+ year old trees, a natural wildlife haven, or indeed any habitat which has been left undisturbed by man. So offsetting will not mean replacement.

    Not all proposed developments will be on such land, but we also cannot start destroying farmland or grazing pasture either – food production has to be a key need in our increasingly populated island.

    I am struggling to generate any ideas for offsetting which could match or be more beneficial than what is being destroyed.

    I feel much more emphasis needs to be placed on developing brown sites – there are many around, often a blot on the landscape.

  69. Barbara Ward says:

    Why do the government think that creating offset biodiversity areas, are solving anything. We have the areas already so why let developers take what ever land they want and offset with other areas.
    Not suitable to use? Do we really need a major house building programme ? What we really need is long term jobs, in manufacturing / farming / food/ We are all in this together to leave a more sustainable way on using what we have in this wonderful country we all live in, not just the city and money markets, who seem to rule our lives, buying and trading in everything, with no thought for the future of our grandchildren whom sadly will inherit the mess we leave behind.
    No to destroying our ancient woods and heritage park areas, that is happening all over the British Countryside, developers refusing to build in old industrial areas to build in areas of outstanding natural beauty, where they would make more profit.
    BMW

  70. PeterN says:

    To pretend that it is possible to recreate, green belts, areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and ancient woodland is dishonest. It is yet another ploy by a government elected on a manifesto which inclided “being the greenest government ever” to weaken all controls on development for profit regardless of environmental damage.

    It must be treated in this light and resisted without qualification.

    “Nature struggles to be given the priority it deserves when pitched against the needs of the economy”.Weasel words.The economy does not need the destruction of ancient woodlands, sites of special scientific interest etc.

    As had already been said, an offsetting scheme will only be effective in very limited circumstances, and that is not the intention of this government.

  71. David says:

    As in everything it sounds good, better than what we have now perhaps, but the devil is in the detail. If a habitat is destroyed, it is gone, it cannot be simply replaced by so called offsetting – where on earth will the land be found to undertake such ‘newly created habitat’. If such land was not itself a habitat of importance, maybe that’s where the building should go!!! To me it sounds like smoke and mirrors, lip service. Its like the carbon offsetting scheme which frankly to me is nothing more than a fraud. I have no faith in this Government or any other to properly evaluate, approve and monitor such a scheme. Each planning application should be considered on its merits having due regard to concerns for that environment and vital habitats and should not be passed on the nod, excused by an offset plan.

  72. Mark Gallon says:

    If we keep on developing land because housing etc is ‘needed’ we will end up with the British Isles becoming one large urban sprawl. I do not deny the population the right to adequate affordable housing but we cannot simply go on like this. When I trained as an engineer in the 1060’s we were taught that before taking any action, think what you are planning through to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion to continuing development is as stated above. I do not offer a solution, solutions are what our parliamentary representatives are paid to find. One thing is clear, continuing development of a natural environment is not a solution.
    If we had developed to the present day level 90 years ago we would probably have all starved to death during 1939-45.

  73. Audrey Walsh says:

    Yet again the government is demonstrating that they are only amenable to money. That is what they see and that is what the lobbyists and developers are constantly telling them. Ancient Woodlands, with their necessary habitats for plants, animals, birds, insects, etcetera, are impossible to move from one location to another. It takes many years for the correct mix of all these things to create an on-going environment that is self sustaining. This is not hard to understand if anyone cares to listen instead of allowing themselves to be blinded by pound signs.

  74. Rwthless says:

    I don’t trust any arm of government to ensure the safety of any tree or wildlife habitat attached to it. The crunch came for me when I saw a lonely pigeon sitting on a stump of tree where her nest had been earlier that morning. Yes, I know they are a pest, but it could have been a buzzard. It was April, and the breeding season when lopping and pruning of trees is strictly forbidden. For some councils, the very action of applying for a Tree Preservation Order sends the chainsaw teams out to fell it before the TPO can be granted. Builders, Road contractors and Architects all hate trees and fell any in their path, even when it is clearly states in the plan that such trees must be preserved.

    So offsetting is a waste of time. No, No, No and Absolutely No! It will never work. They will fell the woodland and habitat that exists, then ‘forget’ to do the offsetting work. Even when they do do it, it will be a long way away from the woodland it replaces, and will have shifted from the original say 5 acres to a half acre site, via a number of ever diminishing potential sites given up to other development as expediency dictates.

  75. Maureen Hart says:

    This is another Government idea to try to pull the wool over our eyes, one of my Mum’s expressions! If we believe that this will work we will find less & less of our ancient woodlands are preserved, not just for us now but for our Grandchildren & beyond.
    Once ancient woodland is destroyed it can never be regained no matter what those with the power to ride rough shod over our opinions, needs & wants try to tell us.
    We have lost too much wildlife habitat with the loss of hedges countrywide. As a child wandering in fields surrounded by hedges taught us a lot about wildlife, plants & trees. I would love to be able to do this for my Grandson but there are no hedges as there soon will be no woods if this goes ahead.
    I feel we must watch very carefully & act immediately on any concerns we as a whole have.
    No matter the size of the threatened woodland we must look to the best ways to conserve what we have & keep fighting against those who only see money!

  76. mark jones says:

    I go along with this, very clever:-
    “So if we agree to this scheme does that mean that I can kill someone don’t like as like as long as I offset the loss of a human life by getting my wife pregnant? This is what it amounts to isn’t it?”
    Dreadful!!

  77. Mark Pluciennik says:

    I am completely unconvinced by the agenda of this (and indeed other) governments on these matters: they are basically short-term, think everything can ultimately can be costed, and in the old phrase ‘know the cost of everything and the value of nothing’. At its worst, this planned ‘biodiversity offsetting’ is another version of the ‘polluter pays’ principle – that pollution can somehow be compensated for post-damage, rather than prevented in the first place.

    If the WT believes there is some value in the designation element of AW which may provide some greater protection, then I would take their advice seriously, and a little more protection may be better than none. And realistically no foreseeable government in this country is going to switch to any kind of serious sustainable framework – there are too many vested interests. But I am deeply concerned, as are all other commentators here, about what is really driving this, and suspect that this legislation is more of a fig-leaf for inappropriate development than a genuine attempt to protect biodiversity.

  78. Malcolm Jones says:

    The introduction of a Biodiversity Offsetting Act is very timely as far as this 2 party Government (+ the odd invited socialist ) is concerned if only because they are hell bent on driving the HS2 railway through hundreds of miles of natural habitat and leaving creatures which inhabit it dead or homeless to die in the winter . Labour knows more about homelessness than this government so they must be recruiited to squash the proposed Biodiversity Offsetting Act before the bulldozers start to roll .
    Nature is our Home , and we must stop destroying it !

    Mal Jones
    Thornton Dale
    Nth Yorkshire

    • David says:

      Very confused! This has nothing to do with HS2 so stop mudding the important waters by going off at a tangent! If Labour are so hot on homelessness no doubt they will wish to build more houses – guess where! They are all tarred with the same brush! There has to be development so there has to be rules but I am absolutely against this idea as it will enable planners and developers to run a coach and horses through green belt and other planning restrictions. But lets keep on message!

  79. MR. KEITH AMBLER says:

    The root cause of all the environmental problems is population increase.
    There are far too many people in these small islands. An ideal population would probably be 30 million in total including Ireland and Scotland.
    Then we could be over 100 per cent self sufficient in food production, i.e. we could be net exporters of food instead of producing around 60% of the food that we eat.
    We would be able to control our waste products and manage our environment.
    Most of the environmental problems would then actually be manageable.
    Present me with a strongly committed person, at the top in politics , who would work towards achieving that size of population within the next 3 generations and I will vote for them.
    To accept the current growth in population and immigration is, quite simply, madness.

    • David says:

      There is no point in countering these proposals with cloud cuckoo-land ideas. Yes, we are overcrowded and yes population growth and immigration should be halted. But what do you suggest – mass euthanasia?

  80. John Heyland says:

    This Island has lost so much of its wildlife habitat i.e. forest and hedgerows etc. that we must ensure that any offsetting is kept to a minimum and be rarely used. As many have already stated “once it is gone it is gone”. It is extremely difficult to re-establish ancient habitats. So it must not be offset in the first place.

  81. Geoff Mason says:

    Offsetting is no substitute for proper conservation. Ancient woodlands are our equivalent of rain forests, their biodiversity is tremendous. As important and nice as it might be to create new woodland it is no substitute for lost habitat.

    The government may feel that they can assuage their ‘development first’ conscience by offsetting but you cannot just ‘remake’ a habitat which has been lost.

    This is so much more than a question of making good damage caused by development. We need robust protection and conservation of our existing woodlands, plus effectively managed and realistic offsetting; not development at any cost.

  82. Keef Pankhurst says:

    So if we agree to this scheme does that mean that I can kill someone don’t like as like as long as I offset the loss of a human life by getting my wife pregnant? This is what it amounts to isn’t it?

  83. Julie Taylor says:

    “Biodiversity Offsetting” – will that be BO for short? I certainly think it has a bad smell about it!
    The majority of our natural habitats cannot just be migrated elsewhere to suit profit-hungry developers. Some, such as ancient woodland, cannot be migrated at all. Do the government and developers believe our ancient trees are Ents perhaps? Is this just the thin edge of a very warped wedge – where natural environments and green spaces are forced to fit in around “development” rather than the other way around?

  84. Sue Betts says:

    I think the government got in partly on a conservation ticket, but is busy reneging as fast as it can. I am bitterly disappointed at their record so far on preservation of natural habitats, wildlife and climate change.

  85. Karen F says:

    Personally, I think the difficulty with any form of offsetting is that it creates the impression that we can simply offset rather than actually changing our behaviour. Whereas sometimes the latter is what we should be doing…

  86. Su Archie says:

    I am against this-on the basis that once it’s gone-it’s gone. We are a small overcrowded island -getting more crowded by the year. Woodland and open space are at a premium-though I suppose ” trees do no make us happy, houses do”. Who amongst the MP’s who are demonstrably short termist-now or in the future will consider “recreating ” this? It is just an excuse for selling off the family silver to win an election. Confirms my feeling that MP’s -and Owen Paterson are stupid and look to the immediate future because they won’t have to untangle the mess-if they think about it in future.

  87. Jeanne says:

    It will be a lip service policy as each new administration will do what’s best for business, as in West Sussex, fracking issue, business will have more rights than those with interest in woodlands or saving the area they live in.

  88. Anne Cleasby says:

    I think this is a very dangerous area to get involved in. I would welcome the concept of biodiversity offsetting in urban sites (country parks and tree planting around developements), as this would have value both to the environment and to the people living in these places. However, I feel very strongly that ancient woodland should have complete protection, as it is impossible to recreate. Green belts, areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and so on, should be completely protected.
    My fear is that the present government is a all about growth and the economy, and completely short term in their thinking. They have already shown a strong tendency to run roughshod over local views, and appear to have no concept of the value of environment, wildlife, or indeed anything other than money.
    I would support the concept of biodiversity offsetting if it was done in an appropriate way, and if any future planning legislation included rock solid protection for our natural assets.

  89. wendy reddell says:

    I may be a tad paranoid but I do not trust government departments to put anything before the money interests of big business. They think we cannot see through the fairy stories and that platitudes. They just want to hoodwink us into a false sense of security until it’s too late!

  90. Angela Harris says:

    As an ordinary member of the public enjoying our woodlands I would certainly hope that we do not turn this green and pleasant land into a dead concrete jungle!! Flora and fauna are so important to the health of the planet, so please look ahead and understand these things!!

    • David says:

      Isn’t that what ‘Jerusalem’ was all about? In those days our smog laden industrialised land was far from green and pleasant! Nothing much has changed and I do see ‘Jerusalem created here’ anytime soon! This idea should be opposed vigorously!

  91. Roderick Leslie says:

    When I was leading Government forestry policy for England I was against designation of ancient woodland: I felt it was a bureaucracy too far and could have caused more problems than it solved – the CROW access experience having delivered rather less in my view than the angst and effort that went into it. However, that was then and this is now and in the face of current events (hard to forsee 6 years ago it could get this bad) I would strongly support AW designation and hope WT will go for it as part of this consultation. Woodland is still seen by many as more ‘available’ than improved farmland which has minimal environmental value, whilst ancient woodland is ‘critical natural capital’ – despite all the expensive efforts to ‘move’ ancient woodland it is simply impossible to re-create because it is not just about plant and tree lists: it is about context and history, too.

  92. alvecotewood says:

    Biodiversity offsetting could only work in a very limited range of circumstances, but that is not what is intended by the Government. My blog on the matter explains why I don’t think they understand the meaning of irreplaceable, and have contempt for local communities. http://alvecotewood.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/irreplaceable-means-just-that/

  93. Oh dear. Offsetting will not work at all, it is the slippery slope to loss of everything that matters.

    I am all for diplomacy and compromise when it will help – but there are instances where compromise is merely caving in to defeat, because it is allowing something completely wrong and illegal to carry on in the vague hope that being polite and tolerant with wickedness and law-breaking will somehow show the law-breakers that they are in the wrong.

    Then, eventually, in some la-la-land, they will desist. Not.

    When someone is breaking the Law, they are breaking the Law. End of. Any further Development or (Inanimate) Growth of any kind breaks all the biggest Laws on this Planet – the great UN Conventions on the environment (i.e. Climate Change 1992 and Biological Diversity 1992) plus all the international and national laws stemming from them.

    The EU has now made it a CRIMINAL OFFENCE for any Member State to increase, or indeed fail to reduce one of the 6 major greenhouse gases, nitrogen dioxide, because it is also highly poisonous, not just a global warmer. So any development that increases traffic is a criminal offence. Even if it is a windfarm or solar farm – the turbines and panels have to be manufactured and transported, and the resulting electricity is used to fuel activity which is bound to create further NOx and other GHG, and will also lead to further destruction of habitats etc. because that is what human Growth does. Believe it or not. It always has done – but now there are over 7 billion of us. Believe it or not.

    Even if world population goes back to 2 billion, it will still be too many – because all 2 billion will want to live in what is now considered normal comfort – nothing spectacular, or luxurious, just normal – and that takes huge amounts of natural resources.

    Can it not be understood that all human activity that is not some form of organic growing and living is now toxic? Lord knows it is simple enough and obvious enough, and all the most intelligent people in the world (plus all the native tribes still in touch with their land) have been saying it since the 1960s or before. There are now huge Steady State Economy and even De-Growth movements right across the world (though they started in the USA, not surprisingly).

    I know it is hard to admit the truth when nearly all of us survive in a non-organic way, and live non-organic lives to a greater or lesser degree. But in a way, this makes it easier not to sound hypocritical. We are ALL to blame, we are ALL in this together, and only by ALL agreeing on the magnitude of the problem can we even begin to hope for some sort of salvage (it is too late for a Solution).

    The Government has to agree with all of the above, and not ever mention the “M-word” again (it is in one of the Conventions, but means something completely different – it means “salvage a bit of the monumental damage already caused”,

    The Law says all Governments (except the USA and couple of other nations that did not ratify the Conventions) must agree with all of the above, and then ACT on it. No more words without any ensuing actions – or worse still, actions actually countering what the words say. !?!?

    That is the only course of negotiation available to all Governments. Obey their own Laws. NOW.

  94. Peter Kyte says:

    I think the government is paying lip service to the environment and to localism and will push through massive development schemes without listening to anyone. I hope I am proved wrong, but to date the omens do not look good.

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