Following comments from the recent public consultation on a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) around the net gain in biodiversity, it is proposed that the DMBC set a biodiversity offset contribution fee at £25,000 per unit of biodiversity.
This charge would be in place until the winter of 2023 to be replaced by a legal biodiversity credit set up by the central government.
As an example, the council says a playground is “not very special” because it has “low distinctiveness habitat that is widespread and common”.
It is a “bad grassland” because it is mown frequently and has few species and little structural diversity. One hectare of playground would be worth two units or £50,000.
But an area of species-rich limestone grassland is a “very special and very distinctive” habitat because it is “scarce and not widespread”.
Depending on management, its condition may vary, but a grazed pasture with lots of species, few weeds and little damage would be considered in good condition. One hectare would be worth £517,500 – or 20.7 units.
Council bosses say having a biodiversity offset contribution fee will provide developers with a “final option” they can use to enable them to achieve a net gain in biodiversity as part of their development.
Money raised through the Biodiversity Offset Fee will enable new habitat creation projects to take place across Doncaster.
The fundamental principle of net biodiversity gain is that development leaves the natural environment in a “significantly better condition than it was before development occurred”.
Locally, Leeds is the only other council that has set a biodiversity offset contribution at £25,000 per unit. Sutton in London has set a charge of £93,570 per biodiversity unit while Cornwall uses a unit charge of £28,679.
Helen Markland, Senior Ecologist at DMBC, said: “While no fixed contribution is likely to be welcomed by developers, setting a biodiversity offset contribution fee will add certainty to the gain requirement. biodiversity net at Doncaster Council.
“One thing we know the development industry welcomes is the initial certainty of likely planning contribution requests from the local planning authority so that these can be factored into land transaction costs as soon as departure.