Biodiversity ‘compensation’ proposals “a licence to trash nature”

5th September 2013

Friends of the Earth say new plans to ‘offset’ the destruction of wildlife by compensating with new green spaces, announced by the Government today (Thursday 5 September 2013), are a license to trash nature.

Friends of the Earth Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said:

“Nature is unique and complex – not something that can be bulldozed in one place and recreated in another at the whim of a developer.

“Instead of putting nature up for sale the Government should strengthen its protection through the planning system and set out bold plans to safeguard and restore wildlife across the UK.”

Friends of the Earth has identified many risks from biodiversity offsetting, including:

  • Communities could lose cherished local nature sites with no chance to object and no say in where new habitats go.
  • Instead of protecting wildlife and respecting the environment, developers could use offsetting as a way of increasing the amount of inappropriate development and pay to protect and enhance habitats in other locations where land is cheaper.
    The true value of natural spaces will be undervalued as offsetting won’t account for nature’s contribution to flood mitigation, human health, or pollination services provided by bees and other insects.
  • It says the Government should strengthen protection for nature through the planning system and send a clear message to local planning authorities that all new development must be designed with wildlife in mind.


For press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Notes to editor:
1. Biodiversity offsetting is a market based tool that assesses loss of biodiversity in a development scheme and requires the loss to be replaced elsewhere.

2. Proposals for offsetting in the UK were originally set out in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper resulting in a series of pilots to test voluntary biodiversity offsetting which are due to run until April 2014. No evidence from the pilots has yet been published by Defra and take-up in the pilot areas has been low

3. In March 2013 the business led Ecosystems Market Task Force made biodiversity offsetting its number one recommendation to Government claiming it would “revolutionise conservation in England”. The EMTF referred to the need for offsetting to be at “sufficient market scale to maximise demand, growth of competitive supply and the scope for pooling habitat restoration/creation projects” and that it would result in more valuable net developable areas

4. Dr Colin Studholme from Gloustershire Wildlife Trust described a recent proposal to offset damage to a semi-natural grassland habitat as “fundamentally flawed” adding “First it is not possible to recreate some ancient habitat types, such as the grassland community at Rodborough Fields, and second it does not take into account the fact that a local community might be losing their much-loved wildlife area and the compensation for that loss is carried out somewhere else.”

5. Friends of the Earth wants biodiversity to be given much higher priority in the planning system.  It wants the Government to revise draft Planning Practice Guidance on Biodiversity to set out a clearer steer to local planning authorities that:
• local plans must set out how biodiversity gain will be achieved in every area to be approved as ‘sound’ and in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
• development that does not protect and enhance biodiversity will not meet the definition of ‘sustainable’ and so will not benefit from the presumption in favour of sustainable development as set out in the NPPF.