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Wildlife and Planning Applications

What do you need to do?

You need to consider the impact of your proposed development on wildlife, this includes important wildlife habitats and species specially protected by law.

For small scale developments, including householder applications, please use the interactive Wildlife Assessment Check to see whether your application will need to be supported by any ecological information.

For general advice on what you need to think about when submitting a planning application please refer to the Joint Design Guide (2022).

Current planning policy encourages developments to provide a biodiversity net gain, but prohibits net losses. From November 2023 onwards, it is anticipated that the Environment Act 2021 will require developments to deliver a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain. Further information on biodiversity net gain can be found here.

Is your site within the nutrient catchment of the River Lambourn Special Area of Conservation?  Please see our page on Nutrient Neutrality for more information on what this means and how it affects development proposals in the catchment area.

What’s the Council’s role?

The Council has a statutory duty to conserve and enhance biodiversity. When making planning decisions, the Council must ensure compliance with the requirements of the Local Plan and relevant wildlife legislation.

The Council will use the following policies and guidance documents, among others, to assess wildlife impacts of planning applications:

National Planning Policy Framework (2021):

  • Chapter 15 – Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment

Vale of White Horse Local Plan 2031 – Part 1:

  • Core Policy 45 – Green Infrastructure
  • Core Policy 46 – Conservation and Improvement of Biodiversity

Vale of White Horse Local Plan 2031 – Part 2:

  • Development Policy 30 – Watercourses

Other useful information can be found in the following links:

Circular 06/2005: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation

Planning Practice Guidance – Natural Environment

Governmental Standing Advice

British Standards Institution BS42020:2013 – Biodiversity: Code of Practice for Planning and Development

British Standards Institution BS8683:2021 – Process for designing and implementing Biodiversity Net Gain

Great Crested Newts

Natural England has issued the Council a district level licence for great crested newts. This licence allows authorised developers to lawfully undertake works which impact great crested newts. This innovative approach to great crested newt licensing has a number of benefits, compared to the ‘traditional’ licensing process:

  • The district level licence funds the creation of high quality ponds and terrestrial habitats, benefitting the district’s great crested newt population;
  • Seasonally restricted surveys are not required, avoiding lengthy delays to planning applications;
  • Developers can receive authorisation to work under the Council’s district level licence at the same time as receiving planning permission, simplifying the process.

NatureSpace is the Council’s delivery partner for district level licensing and can be contacted for more information. Developers wanting to utilise the district level licence will need to submit the relevant NatureSpace documents to the Council with any planning application.

Natural England has issued guidance to local planning authorities utilising the NatureSpace great crested newt district licence scheme on how to assess planning applications.

For more information on great crested newt licences please see the Great Crested Newt licensing factsheet.

Local Wildlife Sites

Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are designated areas of known wildlife rich habitat. LWS are identified on a county-level against an agreed set of criteria, consistent with Defra guidance.

These designated areas are of substantive nature conservation value and form a key part of Oxfordshire’s ecological network. LWS will underpin the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategy for the county.

In Oxfordshire, the vast majority of wildlife rich habitat is found within LWS – around 6,700 hectares. This is greater than the land area of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within Oxfordshire.

The LWS project oversees the identification, assessment and designation of LWS. The project is a partnership between:

The Council supports the LWS project as enables statutory planning functions and helps to meet corporate priorities. TVERC undertake site assessments and collate relevant environmental data. Free land management and grants advice is offered by BBOWT to any owners and managers who benefit from a LWS on their land.

In planning, LWS receive protection under National Planning Policy Framework and Local Development Plans. The implications of development proposals on LWS need to be carefully considered, including both direct (e.g. habitat loss) or indirect (e.g. recreational pressure) impacts.

Proposed Local Wildlife Sites (pLWS) are areas of land suspected of being eligible for LWS status, but have not been fully assessed yet. pLWS benefit from the same protection as LWS in the planning process, unless there is clear evidence to demonstrate otherwise.

How to get help

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) has a registered practice directory of ecological consultancies who can provide a range of services to help you gather the information you need to support your planning application.

The Council cannot recommend a specific person or company to provide a developer with services. Developers are encouraged to obtain multiple quotes for any required services and ensure that any consultant used is suitably qualified and experienced.

The Council also offers ecology pre-application advice if you need ecological advice before submitting a planning application*.

*Please note our ecology pre-application advice service has been temporarily suspended. We hope to be in a position to restart this service in the near future.  Please keep an eye on our website for an update.