For all developments, any potential environmental impacts have to be considered using the mitigation hierarchy. Simply put, this involves firstly avoiding as many of the impacts as possible. Where avoidance is not mitigation is undertaken (minimising impacts) and, as a last resort, if the impact will lead to a negative impact then compensation will be required. One way to achieve compensation is through biodiversity offsetting. The offset can either be on site or may be undertaken at an alternative location (British Standard 42020:2013).
In 2014 ADAS was commissioned by UK Power Networks to undertake a full suite of ecology surveys, including a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), a Great Crested Newt (GCN) survey and a reptile survey, to support a planning application for the proposal extension of a substation. Unfortunately the proposals could not avoid a permanent impact on a small piece of broadleaved woodland. In order to obtain planning permission ADAS advised that the loss would need to be compensated for.
Working with Woking Borough Council, ADAS was able to secure a package of ecological works to compensate for the habitat loss. Works included the following measures within the neighbouring Brookwood Country park:
- Installation of bat and bird boxes.
- Creation of habitat piles (using the trees removed).
- Clearance of an area of Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum).
Planning permission was granted with a condition to deliver the offset works. In December 2015 these works were delivered in accordance with a suitable management plan prepared by ADAS.
The Rhododendron in the nearby woods (within Brookwood Country Park) dominated the understorey and the removal of invasive species will greatly restore this important component of the woodland. The enhancement works carried out by ADAS formed part of a larger restoration project being undertaken by local nature conservation groups and our contribution has made a significant difference, thus increasing the area’s ecological value to a greater degree than the reduction in value of the area impacted by the extension works.
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