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Brislington Meadows was allocated for housing in Bristol City Council’s Local Plan and that allocation remains policy. Homes England was brought in specifically to help deliver those homes last year and since then has been working hard on plans. We believe the proposals look positively to respond to the housing crisis and climate emergency but also, through careful management, the ecology emergency too.

Homes England is committed to delivering an ecologically-responsible scheme that will see a 10% biodiversity net gain (on and off site).

Yes. Details of tree planting will be a matter for detailed design under the reserved matters application but it will comply with policy in terms of replacement ratios.

We can’t at this stage specify exact species, numbers etc, as the masterplan is illustrative. We can however include ‘palettes’ in the design code to identify appropriate species for example.

We do not expect to increase the number of protected species present on the site. Rather, we will ensure that there is a bespoke construction-stage method statement for protection of all the protected species found on or near the site, and that their needs are considered in the long-term habitat management plan for the site.

The precise detail on improvements included within the scheme, and other off-site mitigation, will be determined under the reserved matters planning application. However, Homes England is committed to delivering a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

We will use Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric 3.0 to work out the site’s current biodiversity score and the biodiversity score predicted for the final development.

Baseline biodiversity scores are calculated according to habitat type, condition, distinctiveness, and spatial significance.

The post-development score is similarly calculated but also factors in other criteria such as timescales, establishment periods and habitat complexity.

The net change between the baseline and post-development biodiversity scores is used to work out the % biodiversity net gain or loss, based against the site’s original biodiversity score. For example, if a site is calculated to have a baseline score of 10 units, a 10% improvement will be 11 units. The development must deliver 11 units on and, if necessary, offsite to be able to claim 10% biodiversity net gain.

There are a range of rules and principles that must also be abided by to claim BNG, in addition to the % calculation. This includes making sure habitat losses are appropriately addressed by the habitat type, distinctiveness, and condition, ensuring greater extent and/or biodiversity value is generated where damage to habitats is unavoidable.

Delivering the full net gain on site alongside 260 homes will not be possible so alongside on site enhancements we will be looking to improve biodiversity in other geographical areas, as close to here as possible. Our strong preference would be to enhance adjacent land to the south but other opportunities are available off-site.

There are more rules and principles to follow when looking to deliver biodiversity net gain off site and we will be applying a rigorous screening process and engaging with stakeholders and other specialists to assist with identifying the most appropriate sites for the type of habitats that would need offsetting. This will happen after planning consent has been secured and following further discussion with the Council.

The measures agreed under the reserved matters application, to ensure the 10% BNG is met, will be subject to a 30-year management plan which secures the habitats created. This will be covered by planning obligations/conditions.

The cost is expected to fall to Homes England and the site developer, probably through a combination of upfront investment and what’s known as a ‘commuted sum’ towards ongoing maintenance, plus a service charge from new residents.

The allocated site is not designated as SNCI. There is confusion in that some maps show the proposed development site within the SNCI, but Bristol City Council has confirmed that the original SNCI designation was disapplied to the allocation area. The SNCI remains in place on land to the south of the proposed development in Victory Park.

The first and most important step of the mitigation hierarchy is to avoid adverse impacts, for example by avoiding harm to priority habitats through changes in scheme layout. This has been applied through the design evolution of our masterplan in the last year. The second step consists of measures to reduce impacts that cannot be avoided, for example through sensitive street lighting to reduce impacts on bats. The fine detail of this will be agreed under the reserved matters application. Only when we have looked at all opportunities to avoid and reduce impacts would we take the final step of compensating for any significant remaining impacts on or off site. We look for opportunities to enhance biodiversity all the way through the process, as part of our approach to biodiversity net gain.

Whilst the 10% biodiversity net gain is not formally Bristol planning policy, it is a target Homes England are committed to achieving (on and off site) at Brislington. A number of Bristol schemes have also committed to achieve this such as St Mary le Port (Castle Park), Baltic Wharf (Harbourside) and Ashton Gate.

Homes England has a track record of delivering schemes which protect and enhance wildlife and were recently on Countryfile talking about this.

Over a 20-year period, we cleaned up the former Avenue Coking Works in Derbyshire, which was once renowned as Europe’s most polluted site. At the same time, we ensured that wildlife was protected, for example by creating a new nature reserve, the Avenue Washlands on part of the site which includes a new reedbed and ditch system along with wet grassland.

We moved great crested newts, water voles and grass snakes that could have been affected by the clean-up works into this new reserve. It’s now also home to birds such as water rails, as well as a good range of species of butterflies and dragonflies. The nature reserve is open to the public and is managed by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust which uses the site to teach the public, including schools groups, about the site’s history and wildlife.

In 2018 we opened a new 50-hectare country park there which includes a football ground, cricket pitch and fishing ponds as well as a number of new walking, cycling, and horse riding routes. This is now under the ownership of the Land Trust. It is already well-used by the local community, who have been really positive about the new facility.

Phase 1 of the development is now taking place, with Kier currently building 252 homes on the development platform, with Derbyshire County Council gearing up to open a new primary school there in 2023. Overall, the Avenue area will deliver 1000 homes, commercial space, and a range of community facilities.

St Leonard’s Hospital was an old NHS site in Dorset that was sold to Homes England as it was no longer needed. As well as buildings dating from the 1940s, it had pine woods, valuable grassland, and heathland that were in poor ecological condition, although it did support small populations of sand lizards and rare birds. We worked with Natural England, the Forestry Commission, and the Dorset Wildlife Trust to create a new green space, incorporating and improving the priority habitats, alongside a new nature reserve. This was done at the same time as the built areas were re-developed.

Together, we’ve created a new 25-hectare natural green space that has been improved for public access for the new and existing communities and for biodiversity. Eighteen hectares of priority habitat, such as rare grassland, was restored to a high standard over seven years. Translocation (careful removal and reinstatement) of acid grassland and heathland away from the development area was undertaken using expert contractors to establish and protect it within the nature reserve area. A new bespoke bat maternity roost was created from an existing brick building and a substantial number of new bat boxes. Conservation grazing has been reintroduced to maintain the heathland. The works are featured as a Case Study 5 in the CIEEM / CIRIA / IEMA booklet of Biodiversity Net Gain good practice case studies.

The Victory Oak scheme that has now been built out on part of the site includes 210 homes and new cricket facilities.

The scheme was a Finalist in the 2017 RTPI National awards in the category of Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment and was also Finalist and Highly Commended in the RTPI SW awards for Excellence in Spatial Planning.

Homes England’s work at the Burgess Hill Northern Arc also delivers a 23% net gain.

Biodiversity offsetting is the conservation action (or range of actions) that are needed to compensate for ‘residual’ losses as a consequence of development. These ‘residual’ losses are calculated after all possible avoidance and mitigation measures have been considered. Offsetting therefore ensures that, when a development unavoidably damages nature, new nature sites will be created. Where appropriate, biodiversity offsetting is an option available to developers to fulfil their obligations under the planning system’s mitigation hierarchy.

In this case, Homes England will work with the City partners to identify suitable locations for offsite compensation close to the development.

A programme of protection measures will be required before and during construction with monitoring post-completion, details of which will be confirmed at the reserve matters stage.

For slow worms, the preferred option is to retain them on site but this is dependent on sufficient undisturbed habitats being available throughout development to maintain the population. The alternative will be to translocate the population to an offsite ‘receptor’ site. A suitable new site will be identified, surveyed if needed (to identify any reptiles that may be present already), then habitat measures would be implemented and allowed to sufficiently establish before slow worms could be captured and moved to the new site. A monitoring programme would be needed whether slow worms are kept on site or translocated off site.

The 10% is unlikely to be achieved entirely on site. We will deliver some ecological improvements on the site and we will be looking to work with City stakeholders to identify suitable locations off site as nearby as possible.

The new habitats have been designed to accommodate the additional peaks in rainfall that are anticipated to occur given the changing climate. In terms of species, choice for new woodlands, hedges, and meadow habitats, this is a matter for future reserved matters applications. Nevertheless there is guidance available from the Forestry Commission about sourcing trees and shrubs from provenances that are most likely to be resilient to hotter and drier summers.

Natural England’s new Biodiversity Metric 3.0 is being applied. This includes using: the biodiversity impact calculator tool; applying all of the rules and principles of Metric 3.0, and the guidance for habitat condition assessment.

The hedgerows would be removed in winter months, outside bird nesting season. Precautions will be taken to ensure that hibernating species do not settle in sections of hedgerow that would subsequently be removed.

There will be bespoke construction-stage environmental management plans for wildlife that will be subject to planning conditions. Although it is not considered necessary at the moment, a Natural England licence would be secured if any legally protected species were disturbed.

The plans would include searching of habitats by ecologists to relocate species, using natural displacement techniques that are humane and also working outside breeding or hibernation periods of species that are mobile.

The wildlife corridor is designated by Bristol City Council. It is designated in a strategic sense i.e. it is crossed in places by roads and development, such as the existing Broomhill Road. However, it sets out that vegetation in the corridor should be protected and enhanced. It is primarily for mobile and flying species. Whilst it will run alongside the proposed new access road, it is generally more than 10m wide and will offer shelter and foraging.

The proposals have been screened by Bristol City Council and it has been confirmed that an EIA is not required. However, when the outline planning application is submitted, it will be accompanied by a full range of environmental surveys and assessments.

Details of tree planting will be a matter for detailed design under the reserved matters application but it will comply with policy in terms of replacement ratios.

We can’t at this stage specify exact species, numbers etc, as the masterplan is illustrative. We can however include ‘palettes’ in the design code to identify appropriate species for example. It will be for Bristol City Council to determine whether the newly planted trees should have a preservation order, but in any case, planning conditions would ensure that any newly-planted trees that fail would be required to be replaced.

A sensitive lighting scheme would be produced under a planning condition, to ensure that lighting was of a type that minimised adverse effects on nocturnal wildlife, whilst providing appropriate levels of security. Forward sightlines and management of vegetation adjoining paths would be considered in order to encourage pedestrians and cyclists.

Detailed guidance on lighting is supplied in a joint publication by the Bat Conservation Trust and the Institute of Lighting Professionals.

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