What we're trying to achieve

[3.04.01] We want to achieve bigger, better, more joined up and resilient habitats which support wildlife and species and improve ecosystem functions whilst respecting the evolution of the cultural landscape. We aim to protect biodiversity and deliver biodiversity net gain. We also want to avoid or minimise harm to sites of geodiversity interest.

Policy 04: Biodiversity and geodiversity

We want to:

  • protect our important habitats, sites and species;
  • achieve bigger, better, more joined up and resilient habitats; and
  • improve the function of ecosystems.

In accordance with the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document, we will achieve this by:

  • applying the mitigation hierarchy to all proposals;
  • supporting proposals which conserve and enhance biodiversity and ecosystems processes; and
  • ensuring proportionate and appropriate biodiversity net gain is secured.

We will only support proposals which would have significant and harmful direct or indirect effects on biodiversity and ecosystems processes where:

  • the need for the development clearly outweighs the harm caused; and
  • an appropriate scheme is proposed which will secure compensation and net increases in biodiversity.

Where a financial contribution is required the rates will be set out in the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document.

We will not permit development detrimental to geodiversity sites unless the need for development outweighs the harm caused.

Implementation guidance

[3.04.04] We will apply the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ in the assessment of all development proposals as outlined in the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document. This also includes a full hierarchy of the important sites, habitats and species. The mitigation hierarchy is a term given to a sequential process which first seeks to prevent harm to biodiversity through avoidance and reduction of expected negative impacts.

[3.04.05] Information is provided in the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document to advise applicants how best to minimise impact through avoidance. This includes how to find out information about known features of biodiversity and geological interest and highlights our expected approach to the submission of information about the biodiversity affected by the proposal. A full hierarchy of all of the site, habitat and species designations affecting the Lake District is given in the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document, together with the legal requirements and sets out the approach that would be taken with respect to decision making when weighing the relative importance of the biodiversity affected against the need for the development.

[3.04.06] Where any residual impacts remain following all efforts to prevent harm, the significance of these residual impacts will be assessed, taking into account a wide range of factors including status of the site, habitat or species affected and the degree of impact. This assessment will then be weighed against the need for the development.

[3.04.07] Circular 06/2005 provides further guidance in respect of the statutory obligations for biodiversity and geological conservation and their impact on the planning system. We have a general duty to take reasonable steps to further the conservation and enhancement of the features for which sites are of special interest. Development which may have a significant effect on Internationally Designated Habitat Sites either alone or in combination with other plans or projects will require a project level Habitats Regulation Assessment. Development which would adversely affect the integrity of Internationally Designated Habitat Sites will not be permitted unless there are no alternative solutions and there is an imperative reason of overriding public interest (IROPI) for permitting the development and necessary compensatory measures can be secured.

[3.04.08] Where biodiversity impacts are considered to be unavoidable, we expect all biodiversity features affected to be compensated for together with measures to secure biodiversity net gain. We will ensure that the level of biodiversity net gain required will be proportionate to the type and scale of the impact. We will use a locally defined metric based on national guidance to quantify the compensation required to replace biodiversity lost and the biodiversity net gain required. For development proposals where there is no demonstrable impact on biodiversity, we will encourage developers to include positive measures for biodiversity.

[3.04.09] Greater detail on our approach to defining appropriate levels of biodiversity compensation and biodiversity net gain will be set out in the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document. And this document will also highlight examples of positive measures to reverse biodiversity decline that developers can refer to where they are minded to provide voluntary additional contributions when submitting planning applications.

[3.04.10] We want to ‘protect sites of geodiversity value and, where possible, enhance’ in line with our Principles of Development. Where relevant, development proposals should make a positive contribution to the protection of geodiversity and where opportunities exist, enhance sites of geological value commensurate with their importance.

[3.04.11] Harm to sites of geological interest should be avoided. Where the need for and benefits of the development are considered to outweigh the harm to the geological interest of the site, the harm should be mitigated including seeking wider public benefits.

Current situation

[3.04.02] The Lake District has an impressive extent of international, national, and locally designated areas – from Ramsar’s, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation to County Wildlife sites and Local Geological Sites.

[3.04.03] Biodiversity includes all species of animals and plants. The Lake District is represented by a rich array of plant and animal species found in habitats and ecosystems which reflect the influence of geology, climate, and human activity that has developed since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. There is known decline in biodiversity across the country. This trend is reflected locally by 77 per cent of the area of Lake District sites that are protected for their biodiversity (SACs, SPAs and SSSI) being categorised as in ‘unfavourable condition’ status. The risk to biodiversity is not confined to protected sites, and any decline poses risks not just to species and habitats but also to a variety of benefits that Lake District ecosystems provides. These include clean water and air, high quality food, wood products and carbon storage, and recreation and spiritual refreshment. To help redress the decline and in line with government intentions, biodiversity net gain should be achieved when granting planning permission.