A summary of how biodiversity will be protected and enhanced in Crawley borough through the implementation of new legislation for biodiversity net gain.

1. Purpose of report

The purpose of this report is to raise awareness of the biodiversity duty for local authorities as set out in the 2021 Environment Act and highlight Crawley Borough Council’s approach to complying with the duty.

2. Introduction and background

This report describes the key requirements of the biodiversity duty for local authorities as set out in the 2021 Environment Act and the issues for Crawley Borough Council in complying with the new duty. The government guidance for local authorities on what is required includes the following statement:

Public authorities who operate in England must consider what they can do to conserve and enhance biodiversity in England. This is the strengthened ‘biodiversity duty’ that the Environment Act 2021 introduces.

This means that, as a public authority, Crawley Borough Council must:
1.    consider what you can do to conserve and enhance biodiversity
2.    Agree policies and specific objectives based on your consideration
3.    Act to deliver your policies and achieve your objectives

The action local authorities take for biodiversity will contribute to the achievement of national goals and targets on biodiversity. The Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP23), published in January 2023, sets out government plans for significantly improving the natural environment.

By 2030, the government has committed to:

  • halt the decline in species abundance
  • protect 30% of UK land

By 2042, the government has committed to:

  • increase species abundance by at least 10% from 2030, surpassing 2022 levels
  • restore or create at least 500,000 ha of a range of wildlife rich habitats
  • reduce the risk of species extinction
  • restore 75% of our one million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to a favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long term

3. Related policies, objectives and actions

This section summarises the policies, objectives and actions that have contributed to Crawley Borough Council’s approach to biodiversity.

3.1 Climate emergency action plan

Crawley Borough Council’s climate emergency notes that biodiversity is declining and identifies the protection and enhancement of green and blue infrastructure as key areas for action:

  • sustainable supply chain policies to prevent biodiversity loss elsewhere (section 5 of the Climate Emergency Action Plan) 
  • biodiversity net gain within our area (section 6 of the Climate Emergency Action Plan)

3.2 Ecological assessment of green spaces in Crawley 2022

An assessment of green spaces in Crawley was conducted in 2022 to provide a baseline measure of biodiversity in 19 specific sites and make recommendations for how they could be expanded, and biodiversity monitored into the future.

3.3 Crawley Borough Council tree planting strategy

Crawley Borough Council has drafted a tree planting strategy (due for release in early 2024) that will identify how trees will be protected and replaced. 

The council has also currently adopted a Local Plan policy securing a new tree for every new house permitted and the replacement of trees lost as a result of development.

3.4 Local Plan

Crawley Borough Council is in the process of reviewing its Local Plan and is currently at examination. The submission Local Plan contains Policy GI3: Biodiversity and Net Gain, which seeks a “10% increase in habitat value for wildlife” from new developments. This will be implemented through development management in determining planning applications.

The council has an adopted Green Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (below) which supports the planning application process, based on the policies within the Crawley Local Plan 2015. This will be reviewed to reflect the updated policies of the new Local Plan, once that has been adopted. The revised SPD will include guidance on the implementation of biodiversity net gain. 

The Ecoserve-GIS report (below) forms part of the planning background evidence, identifying different ecology types in Crawley and potential targets for biodiversity enhancement. 

The Sustainability Appraisal (below) is a key document that defines how biodiversity will be measured, protected and enhanced. This includes the following definitions and objectives and indicators relating to sustainability. Topic area E in the sustainability assessment considers the natural environment and provides:

  • a detailed list of the strategies and policies that have contributed to the plan
  • a list of the different nature areas, open spaces and green infrastructure found in Crawley and baseline assessments of their size
  • indicators that will be used to assess compliance and where data will be sourced from

4. Wider strategies and documents that have been considered

This section describes how Crawley Borough Council has worked with partners and other authorities to develop a joined-up approach to biodiversity.

4.1 Key input documents

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust Biodiversity and Planning in West Sussex, 2014. View the document here.
  • Further details of policy and strategy documents that have been considered in the review of Crawley’s local plan are listed in the Sustainability Appraisal document on page 160 (above). 

4.2 Local nature recovery strategy

Crawley Borough Council contributes to the joint Sussex nature recovery strategy development group that is expected to deliver a nature recovery strategy during 2024. Crawley Borough Council officers are involved in the working group set up to support the preparation of the Nature Recovery Strategy for West Sussex, in addition to the council’s statutory consultee role as a borough council.

4.3 Partnerships

4.3.1 Crawley Borough Council works closely with the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Gatwick Greenspace initiative and local community organisations to monitor and improve biodiversity across Crawley. 

4.3.2 Crawley Borough Council is a member of the Sussex Nature Recovery Partnership Local Authorities Network. This network:

  • provides a mechanism to connect districts and boroughs to the work of the Sussex Nature Partnership
  • provides district and borough councils with access to information and resources, knowledge sharing events and forums for sharing experiences and best practice with others
  • helps to develop common frameworks and approaches across local authorities in Sussex to the interpretation and implementation of emerging policy and practice, ensuring consistency and addressing cross-boundary issues

4.3.3 Crawley Borough Council contributes to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre. This acts as a shared service provider for environmental information required in planning policy and decision-making, including biodiversity, geodiversity, and other aspects of Sussex’s natural capital for local planning authorities in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove. The Record Centre provides Crawley Borough Council with species data inventories, a data request service which includes desktop biodiversity reports for sites of interest, and a biodiversity annual monitoring report. Crawley Borough Council officers are members of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre Steering Group, representing the district and borough local planning authorities.

5. Implementation and future action

This section describes the steps that have been taken implement the new legislation and to monitor its effectiveness.

5.1 A member of the development management team has been appointed to lead internally on biodiversity net gain and training has been commissioned for planning, community services and sustainability teams. 

5.2 A contractor has been identified to provide advice and support on planning applications during the first year of the new legislation.

5.3 The level of activity will be assessed during the first year to determine whether Crawley Borough Council should recruit internal resource for assessing applications and monitoring compliance or continue to work through external contractors. 

5.4 The Crawley Authorities Monitoring Report (AMR) is published on the council’s website at least annually. This document includes reporting on the implementation of the Local Plan policies and against the Sustainability Appraisal Monitoring Indicators. This will include implementation and delivery of the national biodiversity net gain through the planning system and the Local Plan Policies GI1-GI4 in the Green Infrastructure Chapter (including Policy GI3: Biodiversity and Net Gain). For completeness, a summary of the council’s progress on meeting the biodiversity duty will be incorporated into future AMR documents.  

5.5 This plan will be reviewed and updated within the first six months of 2024 and will be reported on within one month of the end of the 2024/5 financial year (end April 2025). 

December 2023.