Homes England Planning Application: Topic to consider – Biodiversity

Current planning policy seeks to ensure that new development is sustainable and underlines the importance of Green Infrastructure; and also seeks to achieve the protection and enhancement of landscapes with a net gain in biodiversity. 

The proposed development at Chalgrove airfield results in a loss of 141 hectares and a net biodiversity loss of up to -92.18 units (contrary to paragraph 174 of NPPF 2019).  This loss is calculated in relation to just the development site itself, and does not take into account the additional biodiversity losses that will occur as a result of the infrastructure planned by HE (bypasses at Cuxham; Stadhampton-Chistlehampton; Watlington; and Benson; together with road improvements planned for Little Milton and Chalgrove – Hollandtide Lane).  No suggestions are given as to how any net loss can be mitigated against.  Homes England suggests there will be a biodiversity gain of 10% but we can find no evidence of this in their application.

Replacing the runway alone requires nearby woodland areas to be either lost or pruned to up to 25% of their total canopy height.

It is very evident from the limited surveys undertaken by Homes England that the airfield site provides a very rich and diverse wildlife habitat and haven and as such should be highly valued and preserved.  The airfield also plays a pivotal and vital role in the setting to our village and the surrounding countryside. 

The NPPF provides on overriding planning objective to ensure that planning contributes to protecting and enhancing our natural environment and helps to improve biodiversity.  The current planning application does not meet this objective. 

Equally, the proposed development is contrary to paragraph 170 of the NPPF.  The development does not contribute to or enhance the natural and local environment surrounding the airfield.  Further, the development does not recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside surrounding the airfield and Chalgrove.  Nor does it minimise the impact on or provide a net gain in biodiversity.