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Nest boxes, bat boxes and holes in fences for hedgehogs: New planning guidance for Greater Cambridge

Biodiversity supplementary planning document graphic

New planning guidance about how to better protect and enhance biodiversity when development takes place has today (7 February) been adopted by the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service in a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

The new SPD is a technical planning guidance document which carries weight in planning decisions. Building on front-line experience from local government ecologists, it was created to guide developers on how to fulfil existing ‘green’ policies.

There is a growing need for up-to-date and accurate guidance on biodiversity regulations for planning which provides clarity on existing local policy and newly updated national policy. Greater Cambridge is one of the fastest developing areas in the country yet has a relatively small amount of land managed for nature or wild spaces. As such, it is vital that biodiversity is protected and enhanced, both in terms of the amount of land managed specifically for nature, and the quality and richness of biodiversity throughout our urban and rural environments.

On Tuesday 11 January, Cambridge City Council voted to approve the use of the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document when determining planning applications submitted to the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning team (the shared Planning Service between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council). Today (7 February), the guidance was approved by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s meeting of Cabinet. As both Councils need to approve the document prior to adoption, the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document is now adopted.

The new SPD will now be a “material consideration”, meaning that it must be considered and applied appropriately in planning decisions, alongside other existing considerations.

What is in the guidance?

  • 100% of all new homes will require an integrated nest box for species such as swifts
  • 25% of new homes on housing developments will need to include bat boxes
  • Fences will need to feature gaps for hedgehogs and other species to roam more freely
  • Green roofs will be encouraged, to create valuable habitats of flowering plants and grasses for wildlife in urban settings
  • A reduction in artificial lighting which harms nocturnal species in their habitats, woodland edges, hedgerows and wetlands will be required
  • Advice related to provisions in the Environment Act that give developers a two year window to transition from current rules around biodiversity, to new rules that will require a 10% increase in biodiversity as a result of development.

Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet Member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “This document is going to be invaluable to developers, and will positively impact all of our surroundings in Greater Cambridge. Greater Cambridge has well below average tree cover and relatively little nature-rich land – and we are committed to changing this. By setting out easy-to-ready guidance to assist developers in meeting obligations, the SPD will help support South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Doubling Nature Strategy, and to ensure that every new development plays its part in increasing biodiversity in our area.”

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, Cambridge City Council, said: “The climate emergency and loss of biodiversity are some of the biggest challenges facing our area. Cambridge City Council has set out what we propose to do with our own green spaces and developments through our own Biodiversity Strategy. Alongside this we need private developers to do their bit and this planning guidance is an important tool to help them meet our requirements.

“The guidance in this Supplementary Planning Document will be a real help to applicants by showing how they can meet the policies of both Councils’ Local Plans as well as relevant national legislation. It provides clear information on how developments can enhance biodiversity from the outset to ensure it is properly integrated into projects and that all developments help the environment.”