The last few days of 2020 are upon us and what an unprecedented year it has been. In this post we are going to take a look back at the year from an ecology point of view — summarising some of the headline changes to affect ecology and development. Despite the huge disruptions that the pandemic has generated, The Ecology Co-op has managed to adapt our working practices to accommodate the necessary restrictions, whilst still being able to assist with projects. This is something we are continuing to do going forwards, so please do get in touch to discuss any projects you have programmed in for 2021 and beyond.
This year began with the introduction of the Agricultural Bill in January. In November, the Bill passed into law (Agriculture Act 2020) and the government published a roadmap for the transition to future farming systems as set out in the Agriculture Act, which includes provision for nature recovery.
After a break in progress due to the pandemic, the Environment Bill continued its passage through parliament at the beginning of November. It’s return includes a number of amendments tabled by the government for consideration. Following the Bill’s completion of Committee Stage, it will be further scrutinised by the House of Commons, after which it will progress to the House of Lords. One of the main implications of the Bill for development is with regards to biodiversity net gain requirements, in addition to supporting Nature Recovery Networks.
Nature Recovery Networks will place a duty on public authorities to enhance biodiversity – going beyond only seeking protection of the natural environment by implementing active restoration. It is likely that the development of Nature Recovery Networks will be an important consideration in the future for planning and development.
In recent weeks there has been updated guidance provided by Natural England regarding great crested newts in relation to development schemes, which includes guidance for developers preparing a planning proposal.
December 2020 has also seen the introduction of further charges for wildlife licenses from Natural England relating to badger, wild plants, natterjack toad, otter, smooth snake, sand lizard and water voles. These follow on from existing charges for bats, dormice and great crested newts.
The government published the UK’s approach, known as Adaptation Communication, this month, to prepare for the effects of climate change. This includes committing £640 million to protect, restore, and expand habitats such as woodlands and peat bogs.
The year closes with the transition period for Brexit set to end on 31 December 2020. The Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) process as set out in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) will continue to apply in much the same way after the transition period ends. Any reference to the Habitats Directive and the Wild Birds Directive, however, will be dropped; instead, HRA will be referred to in the context of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas will still be referred to as European sites. The network of such sites in Europe will be referred to as ‘Natura 2000’, whilst those in the UK will be referred to as the ‘National Site Network’.
All that’s left to say is that we hope you have a great new year and we look forward to working with you in 2021.