By Peter Kruger
The pressure to build new houses in Cambridge is so great that net biodiversity gain targets are getting harder, and in some cases impossible, to meet. This became apparent when work started on a new railway station in the south of the city. The solution was to admit biodiversity targets could not be met and offset the loss in another part of Cambridgeshire. It now seems this work around is being applied to small fill in and garden developments in densely developed areas of Cambridge. Land agents have been quick to spot an opportunity and are snapping up the farmland in the hope to selling a net biodiversity gain to developers whose plans would otherwise be rejected due to a failure to meet biodiversity targets. The flaw in the scheme is easy to spot.
Liberal Democrat run South Cambridgeshire District Council, already courting controversy by introducing a shorter working week is now open to the accusation that the limited time it contributes to Greater Cambridgeshire Shared Planning is spent making life for its planning officer by stealing biodiversity from its Labour controlled, city based, partner. Aside from the political ramifications of this badly thought-out biodiversity offset scheme there is the dubious morality of an initiative which results in affluent villages becoming more rural at the expense of less well-off areas of Cambridge which are being reduced to urban deserts.