North Yorkshire Council looks set to focus hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on taking on specialist ecology staff to meet biodiversity and nature recovery ambitions.
Senior North Yorkshire councillors look set on Tuesday to accept a second grant of £231,116 from the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs to support preparations for the rollout in November of mandatory measures to halt or reverse species decline by 2030.
The move follows the Environment Act 2021 placing duties on councils to oversee biodiversity net gain, a mandatory duty within the planning system to protect and enhance habitats and ensure they are not compromised by housing, employment, and infrastructure development.
Councils will also need to publish regular biodiversity reports and facilitate local nature recovery, through planning and the creation of nature recovery
As part of the changes, developers needing planning consent will have to demonstrates a ten per cent biodiversity net gain, even if it means creating new habitats away from their proposed sites.
An officers’ report to the meeting states the measures will create numerous responsibilities on the council, including enforcement and reports on the losses and gains of biodiversity through the planning process and a biodiversity expert and two ecologists were needed to guide planning policy.
The authority’s climate change champion, Councillor Paul Haslam said he believed the authority was using the funding to the best effect as issues around climate change were huge and the council could not possibly bring every initiative in-house.
He added: “We can’t afford to bring in specialists for every project ranging from electric vehicle charging to wind turbines.
“When it comes to resource we have got to be smart, and determine whether it should be in-house, contracted out or just a consultancy basis.”
Coun Haslam said the biggest issue facing the authority over biodiversity was that the council’s planning team had only one ecologist to cover the entire county, when about four were needed.
He said: “I think there is a crying need for this, particularly as we have the forthcoming county-wide Local Plan to design as well by April 2028.”
When asked if the proposed roles were sustainable given the time limits on the funding, he said: “I think the world will change in the next few years and more monies will have to come forward for this or will come forward in a different way.
“I think there will still be a strong argument to do this in three years’ time and climate change will be a critical part of the mayor’s remit in that he will have to keep the people of North Yorkshire safe and well.”