The HS2 Woodland Fund (managed by the Forestry Commission) re-opened on the 18th of March. A further £4 million of funding is available to commit to native woodland creation and/or PAWS restoration projects within 25 miles of the HS2 Phase One route, over the next 4 years. New applications are now being accepted and it is worth noting that the fund is no longer operating under ‘de minimis’ rules; for this funding, an enterprise is no longer excluded from applying if they have received over €200,000 as de minimis aid over three financial years.
More information and application forms are available on the HS2 Woodland Fund website (external link).
Our partnership manager, Nicola Thomas, has recently written a guest blog for Natural England on biodiversity net gain. Click here to read the full blog post (external link).
In collaboration with our partners, the NEP has now published a map of large-scale, strategic Green Infrastructure Opportunity Zones in Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes. The map and its accompanying document can be read alongside the NEP’s earlier Vision and Principles for the Improvement of Green Infrastructure in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. We will use it to highlight to developers, infrastructure providers, planners and other stakeholders the existing value of green and blue infrastructure in our landscape, the multiple benefits it provides, the major threats that the zones of GI face and the types of opportunities that could be available if development plans for GI early and strategically at all scales. The map has been produced in collaboration with our partners using data, knowledge and expertise and is available alongside an accompanying document which explains what was done, why and how, along with details of the opportunities within each zone.
The NEP is working on a major initiative to design and implement a biodiversity accounting scheme to strive towards ensuring net gains in biodiversity are achieved as a result of the unprecedented scale of development expected in our area in the coming years. We are working with Warwickshire County Council, which already operates a successful biodiversity accounting scheme, to design a scheme for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, alongside a metric for accounting for changes in biodiversity as a result of development, based on the national “Defra” metric and expected updates).
We have been working to ensure that all Local Plans in our area commit to measurable net biodiversity gain and apply the mitigation hierarchy (the appropriate order for ensuring any biodiversity loss is avoided in the first place, or compensated for on a development site before and off-site offsets would be considered). Further details will be produced in a forthcoming model “supplementary planning document” (SPD) available for all local authorities in our area to adopt, alongside the metric, guidance notes and details of the workings of the scheme.
For more information, please see the Biodiversity Accounting project page. Updates will be provided as they become available and we will keep you informed on major developments via our newsletter.
The NEP actively engages on local planning issues as well as regional, national and infrastructure planning issues that affect Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. In addition to bespoke responses to all of our Local Authority partners as they advance through the Local Plan process, we have formally responded to Network Rail’s East-West Rail Consultation, the consultation on the new National Planning Policy Framework, Heathrow Airport Expansion Consultation, DCLG consultation proposals, and the Draft New London Plan, among others. The NEP will continue to respond to relevant consultations and work with our Local Authority Partners to encourage alignment to the NEP’s strategic aims for the environment of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
Bucks Buzzing is the NEP’s pollinator awareness project, which helps residents and organisations get their patch of Bucks & Milton Keynes buzzing with increased habitat for pollinating insects like butterflies, hoverflies and bees.
This summer we supplied wildflower seeds to over 400 people to help get their patch buzzing, as well as raising awareness through social media, radio interviews, and local press.
We’ve been able to provide support to a number of projects, both large and small, and worked with schools, community groups, and some of our partner organisations. You can read more about these projects on our Bucks Buzzing Case Studies page.
If you have an idea to get your patch of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes buzzing, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 12 September, the Department for Transport announced that ‘Corridor B’ had been selected as the preferred option for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. Highways England will now work up options for the specific route choice. Highways England has provided more information about the Expressway here.
One of our partners, the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, has expressed profound concerns about the corridor chosen. Estelle Bailey, Chief Exec of BBOWT said, “the potential impact on biodiversity of corridor B is so serious that the route should have been discounted entirely”. BBOWT are launching a legal challenge due to the failure to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment. Click here for more information about BBOWT’s response.
The NEP has been involved in the production of a report on natural capital planning in the growth corridor. The work was led by the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership in conjunction with other Local Nature Partnerships (Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Bucks and Milton Keynes) in the Growth Corridor and the local authorities in Oxford. This work was recently completed and was funded in the main by a grant from Defra.
The area between Oxford and Cambridge covers some of the fastest-growing and most economically productive parts of England yet has an incredibly diverse environmental landscape which is highly valued by the millions of people who live in or near the area. Environmental protection and enhancement will be critical to achieving the ambitions of the Government and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) for the Corridor.
To achieve this, the report’s recommendations include:
The project examined the need for a natural capital investment plan to accompany the Corridor proposals, and reviewed the relevant information and guidance available, basing its approach on the Natural Capital Committee’s How to do it workbook
The Executive Summary is now available to read and download from the Bedfordshire LNP website, pending the publication of the full report.
A new, single unitary council for Buckinghamshire was announced by the Secretary of State on 1 November. The Rt. Hon James Brokenshire states in a written ministerial statement that it is clear there is ‘broad consent for change in Buckinghamshire’:
“Given the desire and thrust for change and innovation in Buckinghamshire, that the five councils agree that the current structures are not sustainable, and that the locally-led proposal for a single unitary is the only proposal that meets the three criteria, I am persuaded that the right course of action is to establish a new single unitary district council for Buckinghamshire.”