An area of woodland directly on the route of the Western Link, credit Iain Robinson

NDR Western Link - Net Gain is not enough


Monday 03 February, 2020


The inclusion of Defra’s targets for ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ in Norfolk County Council’s proposal for the Western Link road will not be enough to protect the area’s wildlife, with bats in particular becoming vulnerable to local extinction.

Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than before, by ensuring that more habitat is created following development than is destroyed. But much of Norfolk’s wildlife depends on mature and established habitat, and will not be able to survive in areas of new habitat, even if the areas are larger.

Conservation Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Mike Jones said:
“We estimate that the western link road will include the permanent loss of between three and four hectares of woodland. The mature trees in this woodland provide features such as holes and bark gaps, which form a key roosting habitat for the local bat population. The rarity of the species present means that this woodland is likely to be of national importance.  

“A new woodland planted to meet the net gain targets adopted would fail to provide replacement bat roost sites and therefore would not mitigate or compensate for the losses. This would be compounded by the disconnection of the remaining areas, leaving them more vulnerable to local extinction.”    

This week Norfolk Wildlife Trust raised its concerns directly with the Council, asking them to consider the principle of creating a real net gain for all biodiversity and highlight the real threat to wildlife, which Defra’s targets will not solve.

Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Pamela Abbott said:
“We appreciate the inclusion of a strategic objective to deliver Biodiversity Net Gain. However, there is a difference between delivering habitat targets and ensuring that all biodiversity impacts are mitigated effectively across the route. It is very likely that the newly created habitat will not support the wildlife displaced from the areas lost to the road. This is shown most starkly by the impact that the road will have on the bat colony.

“It is vital that all specific habitat requirements of all wildlife along the route are assessed, as well as meeting the Defra net gain habitat targets. In particular, the Council will need to examine in detail the habitat connectivity.”
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