Out-Law News

Biodiversity offsetting saves Essex housing scheme

The Planning Inspectorate has allowed an appeal against an Essex council's refusal to grant planning permission for a 47-home development after the developer agreed to provide replacement grassland and common lizard habitat.

Uttlesford District Council refused to grant outline permission for the development in Thaxted, Essex in August 2013. In its decision notice, the council gave strong consideration to the potential for loss of biodiversity under the proposals. The site contained distinctive grassland habitat and was under management for the benefit of the protected common lizard. Council ecologists had also raised concerns about the lack of adequate surveys for other protected species.

The developers had proposed to offset the loss of habitat by providing a larger grassland site for wildlife a few miles from the development site and managing it for 25 years.

Deciding in favour of the developer, planning inspector Tim Wood said that, given the size of the offsetting site and its greater grassland habitat potential, the proposals would in fact enhance biodiversity when taken as a whole.

In coming to his decision, Wood also took into account the fact that the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land. In these circumstances, a general presumption in favour of sustainable development applies to appeal decisions.

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