Clarkebond and Buckingham Group were developing extensions to buildings at the Britvic factory in Rugby, Warwickshire. The construction works set out to affect about one quarter of the 8.5ha site and aimed to increase the factory’s production capacity by 25%.
Warwickshire is one of six UK areas that piloted a biodiversity offsetting tool for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2012-14. All the local planning authorities subsequently opted to continue with offsetting on all minor and major planning applications.
The Ecology Consultancy was appointed to conduct the Biodiversity Impact Assessment required by the local authority as part of the planning consent process for the Britvic extension.
Our Midlands office ecologists commenced with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal of the site, followed by an assessment of the relative value of the site post-development using the Warwickshire Biodiversity Impact Assessment (BIA) tool.
With the results of the BIA having predicted an unavoidable net loss of habitat, our experts set out to advise the clients on offsetting options.
We established that, based on biodiversity compensation calculations, the loss of around 2ha of species-poor grassland on the Britvic site, would require an offset of approximately 9ha of more species-rich grassland.
However, this particular scheme posed particular challenges for biodiversity as there was no practical means to avoid loss of habitats or to compensate for this within the site.
On the client’s behalf, The Ecology Consultancy liaised with biodiversity compensation solutions provider, the Environment Bank, to secure a suitable area of local land on the edge of town, in the floodplain of the River Avon.
The plot of land is dominated by rank grassland which the Environment Bank will manage under a 30-year agreement. Management will include the reseeding of a large area as lowland meadow, and the rest will be managed to become wet woodland. Both lowland meadow and wet woodland are priority habitats in the local area.
The success of these offsetting activities contributed to the approval of planning consent in May 2017, following which our ecologists acted as Ecological Clerk of Works to supervise vegetation clearance and groundworks to prevent disturbance or injury to protected species.
The Ecology Consultancy’s proposal to offset biodiversity loss by procuring and managing a local area of land has proven to be a win-win scenario; not only will it result in significant net gain for biodiversity, it is also significantly more cost-effective for Britvic, who would have otherwise needed to pay a commuted sum to the local authority.
Theodore Tai, Regional Director, Clarkebond: “We have truly appreciated The Ecology Consultancy’s creative support that facilitated planning consent for our factory expansion scheme. We are delighted that our scheme can now proceed, whilst at the same time it has helped to provide real benefits for wildlife in the local area.”