Agenda item

Habitat Banking Vehicle Business Case


Councillor Tom Briars-Delve (Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change) introduced the item and highlighted: 


a)    State of Nature was the most comprehensive report on UK biodiversity published by leading conservation charities and it had painted a stark picture and had found that in the UK 151 documented animal species had already become extinct and nearly 1 in 6 of remaining species were threatened with extinction; 

b)    Nature recovery needed to be at the centre of what council did and this would be assisted by the Climate Impact Assessment Tool which would assess and mitigate the impact of decisions; 

c)    The 2021 Environment Act (2021) required developers from January 2024, to show a biodiversity net gain of at least 10%, with a 30-year maintenanceperiod; 

d)    The Habitat Banking Vehicle concept was a way of ensuring that when on-site improvements weren’t sufficient, the council could assist developers in funneling investment into the enchancement of nature in Plymouth’s green spaces; 

e)    Ocean City Nature, the collect of companies that would run the vehicle, had already been set up and the business case asked for approval for £500,000 investment as a loan in the ambitious pilot; 

f)     The pilot would enhance nature on three council green-sites in a measurable way with DEFRA metrics; 

g)    The improvements would be theoretically split into ‘biodiversity units’ which would be tradable tokens that could be sold to developers who would need to show they had developed a certain level of biodiversity net gain; 

h)    It is hoped that this UK-leading pilot would show the viability of the habitat banking vehicle model as an effective means of channeling millions of pounds of funding into local green spaces; 

i)     The habitat banking vehicle had the potential to be the best opportunity for the council to give nature recovery in Plymouth the support it needed. 


Kat Deeney (Head of Environmental Planning) added: 


j)     The Habitat Banking Vehicle was a local solution for delivery against biodiversity net gain policy, maximising benefits for local nature and local people; 

k)     Wanted to ensure, like with Section 106 monies, that the impacts of development were mitigated locally; 

l)     Further explained the process of funding and biodoversity units as a circular system; 

m)  The three pilot sites would be Cann Woods, Ham Woods and Chelson Meadow, all in different areas of the city and incorporating different habitat types; 

n)    By having the habitat banking vehicle in place, there would be no delays in developments due to the new requirements; 

o)    The financial modelling had taken inflation into account; 

p)    Doing nothing would result in a loss in money for nature in the city because Section 106 would no longer exist, and the plans would benefit nature and keep people close to nature as well. 


In response to questions, it was further explained; 

q)    Benefits would vary from site to site and so types of planting would vary, but would encourage more animal life to thrive in the city; 

r)    Increases in biodiversity would be measured against DEFRA’s metrics; 

s)     Despite recent changes in attitude towards net zero from national Government, the plans were still due to go ahead, it had been previously delayed, but this was in relation to not being ready for implementation; 

t)     The team would be looking for involvement and engagement from local communities as the aim was to improve these areas for their benefit and welcomed the suggestion of involvement with schools; 

u)    It built on important work already being undertaken in the city, and it was innovative, with other local authorities looking to Plymouth on this. 


Chris Avent (Green Estate Manager) added: 


v)    It was a new and innovative way of gaining funds to support wider work across the city. 


The Cabinet agreed to: 


1.    Approve the business case and approve £0.5m loan to Ocean City Biodiversity for the delivery of the Habitat enhancement activities across the 3 pilot sites and operation of the company; 

2.    Confirmed that the appointed PCC Member Rep, David Northey, as Interim Strategic Director for Finance, would be responsible for implementing the loan agreement at a suitable point in time,and for reviewing and monitoringthe repayments from OCB to PCC. 


Councillor Tudor Evans OBE (Leader of the Council) asked for information on both this project, and dentistry action group, to submit as to the LGA Labour Groups list of 100 Innovations of Labour Councils. 


Supporting documents: