Navigating Cornwall’s New Environmental Validation Requirements

7 Jun 2024

As environmental consultants, we’re committed to helping developers build sustainably while meeting the latest regulations protecting Cornwall’s biodiversity. Recent changes to planning policies and validation have major implications for residential and commercial projects in the region.

Expanded Validation Requirements

Over the past year, Cornwall Council has significantly expanded the environmental reporting and surveys needed to validate planning applications. This ensures that impacts on Cornwall’s unique natural habitats and species are carefully considered upfront. Even minor developments like single new dwellings now require Biodiversity Net Gain and Green Infrastructure documents.

Biodiversity Net Gain is Now Law

This year, the Environment Act 2021 made Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) a national legal requirement for developments needing planning permission. This applies to both major and minor projects, but excludes householder projects, like extensions and loft conversions. This landmark policy mandates that development leaves biodiversity in a better state than before by increasing natural habitats and ecological features by at least 10%.

What This Means for Your Projects

For some most developments, you’ll need to submit a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, following Cornwall’s Ecology Trigger checklist. While self-builds are exempt from providing 10% BNG, you’ll still need the  Preliminary Ecological Appraisal in most cases.

Achieving the 10% BNG uplift for developments is often more challenging than expected, especially on smaller, more constrained sites. Careful planning is required to maximize on-site habitat creation and potentially secure offsite biodiversity credits if needed. Getting an environmental consultancy like ours involved early allows you to understand what’s feasible and explore all options before investing significantly in designs.

On-Site Habitat Creation Strategies

Depending on your site’s conditions, some effective strategies we use to create new biodiversity value include:

  • Planting new hedges and native scrub or grassland habitats
  • Creating new ponds, swales and other wetland habitat
  • Restoring poor semi-natural habitat to high-quality areas
  • Integrating green roofs, rain gardens, etc

Off-Site Biodiversity Options

In cases where providing the full 10% BNG raise on your development footprint is impractical, you can explore purchasing biodiversity units from a third party Biodiversity Unit provider such as our parent body Cornwall Wildlife Trust, or look to provide your own if you have other areas of land available. Our team has extensive experience quantifying biodiversity value using DEFRA’s metric and calculating off-site requirements. We can advise on the most cost-effective off-site solutions for your project in the small number of cases where on site provision of BNG has not proved possible.

Comprehensive Ecological Services

From preliminary site appraisals and biodiversity value calculations to devising mitigation strategies and monitoring, our qualified and experienced ecologists and landscape architects provide comprehensive services to streamline the environmental elements of planning approval. We offer:

  • Preliminary Ecological Appraisals
  • Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments
  • Ecological Impact Assessments
  • Protected Species Surveys
  • Landscape Designs which deliver on site habitat creation
  • Green Infrastructure Plans and Strategies
  • Canopy Cover calculations and reporting
  • Post-Construction Monitoring

Embracing Cornwall’s higher ecological standards will ensure development happens responsibly and sustainably, preserving our county’s unique natural assets for future generations. Getting expert guidance early on in your project helps smooth the planning process while maximising your site’s potential.

Reach out to our team early to start discussing biodiversity strategies for your Cornwall project. Together we can meet environmental policies and design developments that create a net-positive impact.

Interested in how we can help?

We’re always happy to chat and share our experience; get in touch and let’s chat about your project, and we’ll help you to move forward.