Natural England recommends biodiversity net gain target to ‘future proof’ 4,000-home garden village

Wildlife regulator Natural England has advised a local authority wishing to build a garden village in Cornwall that it should pursue “a measurable net gain for biodiversity” in line with the revised national planning framework and the policies set out in its local plan.

Natural England’s comments were submitted at the end of September in response to Cornwall Council’s plans to develop Langarth Garden Village – a proposed 253-hectare site west of Truro City, which would consist of 4,000 homes, schools, community woodland and associated community infrastructure.

The regulator’s suggestion to offset any natural habitat that is negatively impacted, damaged or destroyed, by the proposed development is in line with paragraphs 170 and 174 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), policy 23 of the local plan and is also in line with the government’s Spring statement commitment to mandate net gain into the planning system, according to Natural England.  

The council’s scoping report, carried out by environmental consultants Arcadis and submitted in August, has recognised that two European designated sites could be affected by the proposed garden village, namely the Carrine Common Special Area of Conservation (SAC) prized for its wet heath and heather varieties, and the Fal and Helford SAC treasured for its intertidal mud and sand flats. The village is also located 410 metres east of the Carrick Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) supporting the rare heather-species Dorset heath (Erica cilaris). 

According to Natural England the development could have “significant direct impacts” on all three legally protected sites. It added that the council’s forthcoming environmental statement should identify “such mitigation measures as may be required in order to avoid, minimise or reduce any adverse significant effects”.

However, the regulator added that adequate mitigation could be achieved through the payment of a financial contribution towards the developing Fal and Helford SAC management scheme. 

The proposed site also lies within the Truro Air Quality Management Area designated in 2015 for persistently failing to comply with EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mostly due to exhaust gases associated with cars and lorries travelling on the A390.

The council said it would be able to mitigate this issue with a series of improvements on the A390, an expansion of the Langarth Park and Ride, a new bus gate at the existing westbound exit from the A390 to Langarth, a widening of footways for pedestrians and cyclists at Treliske and Truro College and the construction of a northern access road. 

The council hopes construction works to start in late 2020 with the garden village built in a phased manner over approximately 10-15 years. 

To view the council’s scoping opinion request in full click here. Planning Ref: PA19/07610