The appeal site is situated in an urban location but is home to a number of locally designated sites. The northern section included the Quarry Lane Local Nature Reserve, the River Maun Local Wildlife Site (LWS), the Maun Woodland and Scrub LWS and Community Open Space, and the entirety of the site was designated as Green Infrastructure under the Mansfield District Local Plan 2013-2033. To connect the houses to the local highway network, the proposed scheme would have required the construction of a new access road, which would have cut through each of the locally designated sites and run next to a designated area of Local Green Space.
The Inspector found that the proposal conflicted with the development plan as a whole and did not represent sustainable development. The Inspector concluded that the loss of Green Infrastructure and the harm to Local Green Space and Community Open Space was sufficient to make the scheme unacceptable even without any additional biodiversity harm, but in relation to biodiversity harm the Inspector also found that:
(i) the bat surveys were inadequate (both in terms of their frequency and how they were conducted);
(ii) nonetheless, from the information available there would be significant harm to an important habitat for bats;
(iii) a precautionary approach indicated the need for an invertebrate survey, but none was carried out;
(iv) the Appellant had underestimated the loss to the Maun Woodland and Scrub LWS likely to result from the proposals and there would be loss to the overall area of the LNR.
What is more, in relation to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) the Inspector was not satisfied with the Appellant’s proposal of seeking to deliver this via a pre-commencement section 106 agreement whereby the delivery of BNG would be worked out through a subsequent scheme. The Inspector could not be satisfied that any off-site net gains would be appropriate or provided in a suitable location, and noted that there would be no public scrutiny over the details of such a scheme. Overall, due to the lack of detail about how and where the net gains would be achieved (including the lack of any identified habitat bank) the Inspector found that the section 106 agreement would be inappropriate to achieve BNG.
This is an important decision in terms of BNG and the level of detail required to demonstrate its delivery. It is likely to be of wider interest on this topic.
Merrow Golden acted for Mansfield District Council in resisting the appeal.
A copy of the appeal decision can be found here.