Minerals Extraction Site: Biodiversity Gain Assessment

Overview

BSG Ecology was appointed to help resolve a stalling planning application at a minerals site in Escrick, near York.

The Site had previously been subject to clay extraction and has an active consent for an inert recovery facility. The aim of the development was to continue the recovery facility operations and, as part of a restoration plan, backfill former extraction areas with insert waste, and then create new habitats on the restored area.

The project involved survey work, liaison with North Yorkshire County Council, and the submission of a biodiversity gain assessment. Originally, the information was to be used to inform a non-determination appeal submission to North Yorkshire County Council, however, was this was withdrawn by adopting a revised approach to habitat creation and enabling the delivery of biodiversity gain; the consent was awarded in 2020.

Challenge

A key part of the non-determination appeal was that the restoration would secure measurable biodiversity gain. This presented a challenge since the main desired habitat from a landscape perspective was woodland; this scores relatively poorly in Defra Biodiversity Metric 2.0 compared to some other habitats. The final restored landform also had to sit well within the topography of the Vale of York and Mowbray, which is typically low lying and level. Given the large size of the site, it was noted the project could make a significant contribution to biodiversity in an area otherwise largely dominated by arable farmland.

Solution

Proposed habitat types for restoration were based on local biodiversity priorities: lowland mixed deciduous woodland, wetland and lowland neutral grassland; advice on the surrounding landscape character was provided by a landscape architect. Since the Defra Biodiversity Metric can factor in strategic significance in biodiversity gain assessments these local policy or strategies can be very relevant.

The biodiversity gain assessment considered both the consented restoration proposal, which was approved in 2007 (planning application reference NY/2007/0127/FUL), and the proposed restoration scheme revision which formed the basis of the appeal.

In total 11.36ha of the 14ha Site was proposed for habitat creation. Two post-development Metric scenarios were presented to NYCC: one for the original consented scheme, and one for the proposed (revised) restoration scheme.

Outcome

While both schemes achieved a biodiversity gain; the proposed (revised) scheme scored more highly. This approach was received favourably by the planning authority and approved without the need for an appeal. Notably, the proposed 7.66ha of lowland mixed deciduous woodland proposed within the scheme will contribute over 15% towards a target of 50ha new native woodland for the district (set out in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan).

A Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (LEMP) will be prepared to provide certainty in delivery of the biodiversity gain and to ensure that habitat management will create a varied age structure as the new woodland develops.

Key Services

Category
Minerals, Projects