Wakefield Council’s principal decision-makers will be called upon to endorse the utilisation of Council-owned land for the purpose of enhancing biodiversity throughout the district in their upcoming meeting next week.

Starting from January 2024, the Environment Act will mandate that new major developments augment biodiversity by a minimum of 10%. This directive will be applicable to all developments commencing April 2024, barring certain exemptions stipulated in the Act.

The forthcoming Local Plan also mandates a 10% net gain for all developments, with exceptions outlined in the Act, and will become effective upon its adoption.

The preference is for biodiversity enhancements to be implemented on the development site itself. However, should this not be feasible, developers may seek alternative land for this purpose.

Through the establishment of a Nature Recovery Habitat Bank, the Council can guide developers towards locations that offer the most local benefits, such as areas requiring nature recovery and those providing nature access for residents and visitors. This approach also ensures enduring advantages.

Cllr Jack Hemingway, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, remarked, “Enhancements to the environment for wildlife will yield multiple additional benefits, including flood risk management, enhanced water and air quality, climate change mitigation, and sustainable food production.

“It will also render the district a more appealing place to reside, labour, and invest in while affording opportunities for elevated mental and physical well-being for our residents.”

The biodiversity net gain, incorporated into the planning process, seeks to leave the natural environment in a demonstrably superior state compared to pre-development conditions. This is achieved through the creation and/or enhancement of wildlife habitats, encompassing grasslands, hedgerows, woodlands, and ponds.

The Council declared a Climate Emergency in May 2019, followed by a Biodiversity Emergency and Ecological Crisis in March 2021.

Members of the Cabinet will convene on Tuesday, 10th October, at 10:30 a.m. to deliberate on this report. The meeting can be viewed either live or at a later time on the Council’s website.