Expert witness at planning appeal inquiry

Biodiversity Net Gain assessment | Expert witness

Applied Ecology was appointed by Axis Land Partnerships to provide an ecology and biodiversity expert witness at an appeal inquiry held for a retirement care village development proposal on Green Belt agricultural land on the edge of Stapleford in Cambridgeshire.

The appeal (ref APP/W0530/W/21/3280395) was allowed and planning permission for the development granted by the Planning Inspectorate having been previously refused planning permission by South Cambridgeshire District Council. A number of issues of contention about the development proposal were raised at the appeal inquiry including whether any harm caused by the development would be clearly outweighed by other considerations so as to amount to very special circumstances required to justify the proposal.

The development was shown to deliver seven categories of benefit, one of which was enhanced beneficial use of Green Belt through the provision of a new countryside park on former arable land.  Applied Ecology successfully argued that the new country park would deliver significant biodiversity enhancement and recreational benefits including: increasing the chalk grassland resource in this part of Cambridgeshire by 18.7%; delivering a significant Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) as measured using the latest DEFRA BNG metric calculator; and increasing ecological connectivity and resilience of nearby chalk grassland wildlife sites.  The planning inspector agreed that the proposed country park would deliver clear and significant biodiversity and recreational benefits to which he gave substantial planning weight in making his decision to allow the appeal.

  1. The proposed site for the new country park that would be provided as part of the retirement village development.  The site was in intensive arable production and possessed a chalky soil which provides an excellent basis to create chalk grassland.
  2. Magog Down is an existing country park and protected wildlife site located a few hundred metres from the proposed new country park.  It supports locally important chalk grassland habitat and was created in 1989 on former arable farmland and is now managed by the Magog Down Trust for biodiversity and recreation.
  3. Pasqueflower Pulsatilla vulgaris is a rare plant in the UK restricted to just a few chalk and limestone grasslands, and here it is photographed growing amongst cowslips Primula veris in the chalk grassland of the Magog Down.  The resilience and extent of this and other chalk loving wildlife should increase as a result the new country park.  The new country park is to be managed by the Magog Trust after it is created.