Environmental Code of Practice for developers and contractors
About our area
By virtue of its geography, much new development in Central Bedfordshire takes place on previously undeveloped land. Often, this undeveloped land contains valuable natural features such as:
Previously developed land can also contain these features.
There are existing legislative provisions in place to protect some of these features from the threat of development. In addition, we're able to attach conditions to any planning permission to protect any natural features considered worthy of retention. However, in some instances natural features are removed either before the planning stage or after planning permission has been granted but before the commencement of development, which is a point when any planning conditions are not enforceable. This results in their loss, which if retained can often be successfully integrated into development to provide a high quality, sustainable scheme that contributes to our place shaping objectives.
The aim of the code of practice
The aim of the code of practice is to set out our expectations of developers and their contractors to ensure that they follow best practice with regards environmental protection and improvements to minimise the impact on their development on these natural features and that they adopt an approach which sees their integration as opposed to removal as being beneficial to their schemes.
Existing statutory requirements and planning conditions
The code is additional to and does not substitute relevant statutory requirements contained in the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) which give us specific powers to deal with the removal of protected and important hedgerows and protected trees and is subservient to this legislation. In addition, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) protects all nesting birds and it is an offence to damage or disturb their nest sites. The same act also provides legal protection for bats and newts and their place of breeding or resting. Any such offences should be reported directly to the police.
In most cases, compliance with the code will remove the need for those conditions which require details of protection measures to be submitted for retained natural features, such as trees, during construction as it sets out clearly what standards are required for protection measures.
Environment Bill progress
Enhancement of the natural environment and biodiversity net gain are secured via existing national and local policies. The Environment Bill was being considered by a Public Bill Committee, but due to current circumstances the sittings of the committee have been suspended until further notice. The committee is now scheduled to report by Tuesday 29 September 2020.
The code of practice forms our approved technical guidance and is promoted by planning officers as part of pre-application discussions, planning performance agreements and during the consideration of planning applications. As part of these discussions, developers will be asked to check neighbourhood plans for local biodiversity issues. Developers are required to confirm that they agree to the code by entering a Section 106 Planning Obligation or a condition if no Section 106 is otherwise required. Reports to our Development Management Committee will confirm the agreement or otherwise of the applicant to comply with the code and will include details of any past instances of non-compliance with the code by the developer. Our compliance officers will carry out the main role in monitoring compliance with the code, to ensure successful implementation of its measures set out in this code of practice.
What you need to provide and what action can be taken
The code requires developers to provide the compliance officers with the name and number of a key contact, prior to works commencing on site. Where reports are received of natural features being removed (including the habitat and or home of European and UK protected species or species of local and or regional importance), which have not been agreed for removal as part of the approved development, the compliance officer will get in touch with the developer's key contact to establish the works being undertaken. A visit will be made to the site to gather evidence, if necessary. Where breaches of the code are found to have taken place, the evidence will be shared (if necessary) with our enforcement officers, the police and other enforcement regulators (in relation to nesting birds and other protected species) and/or for the consideration of formal action.
The code requires developers to provide the compliance officers with the name and number of a key contact, prior to works commencing on site.
What the code doesn't apply to
The code does not apply to householder developments.
Provisions of the code
Site clearance upon commencement of development
In undertaking any site clearance upon the commencement of development, developers and contractors will ensure that the only natural features removed are those which have been agreed to be removed under the approved planning application. Supporting information submitted with the planning application, e.g. tree surveys, will provide evidence of the existence of any natural features on site prior to commencement of development. This may be supplemented by photographs taken by officers when visiting the site during the processing of the application. In circumstances where planning permission has not been secured it is encouraged that no clearance is undertaken until a planning permission has been obtained acknowledging that landowners are entitled to undertake works on their land (assuming this doesn’t conflict with the formal protection regimes). This may however lead to additional conditions and/or obligations when planning permission is granted to remedy the loss of any natural features.
Compliance with the legislation
Development will be carried out in accordance with existing legislation for hedgerows, trees, nesting birds, bats and newts and outline other environmental protection legislation such as pollution control. We will provide advice and guidance where appropriate and when a breach of control that is not within our remit to enforce is identified, we will refer the matter to the appropriate enforcing body.
Compliance with best practice and guidance
Development will be carried out in accordance with industry best practice and guidance during construction works:
- BS3998 – British standard for Tree Work
- BS14004 – British standard for Environmental Management Systems
- BS5837 – British standard for trees in relation to design, demolition and construction: provides recommendations relating to tree care, "with a view to achieving a harmonious and sustainable relationship between new construction/existing structures and their surrounding trees"
- BS42020 – British standard for Biodiversity: guiding best practice with recommendations in "professional ethics, conduct, competence and judgement that are intended to give confidence that proposals for biodiversity conservation, and consequent decisions/actions taken, are sound and appropriate"
Visit BSI's website for more about British standards.