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Wildlife Habitats

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 20 June 2019

6. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that developers in England enhance habitats for wildlife. (911456)

11. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that developers in England enhance habitats for wildlife. (911461)

13. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that developers in England enhance habitats for wildlife. (911463)

We have strengthened the national planning policy framework to make it clear that all development within its scope should achieve net gains for biodiversity. We have consulted on proposals to mandate biodiversity net gain for development, and will use the forthcoming environment Bill to legislate for a net gain system.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but will she assure me that she is taking action to ensure that all major infrastructure projects comply with all environmental licences, permissions and protections?

Large infrastructure projects may require an environmental impact assessment of the likely effects. In the case of nationally significant infrastructure projects, the EIA forms a part of the planning process and the development consent order. I assure my hon. Friend that each consenting regime has appropriate enforcement mechanisms.

West Oxfordshire wants the design of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds garden village to enhance, not harm, the environment. What guidance have Ministers given to developers on how garden villages can enhance things such as wildlife corridors and biodiversity in new developments?

Well-planned, locally led garden communities can play a vital role, not only in meeting the country’s housing needs and providing a stable pipeline of high-quality homes but by providing such opportunities as my hon. Friend referred to. In fact, they will be mandated to do so, to improve wildlife corridors and promote health and wellbeing and quality of life. That could be a win-win for my hon. Friend’s constituents.

We have updated the planning guidance for the planning policy. As we set out in the consultation, we intend to develop in the environment Bill an update of metrics for biodiversity and wider environmental net gains. We will provide practical tools to support developers and, critically, local planning authorities to achieve better environmental outcomes for every development.

A 38 Degrees petition started by Norman Pasley from Bristol is calling for legislation on the installation of swift boxes in all new housing developments, and it has more than 130,000 signatures. As parliamentary species champion for the swift, I urge Ministers to support the campaign. Perhaps the Secretary of State in particular would like to make it his legacy from his time at the Department.

Hopefully, the hon. Lady will be swift in her praise for the work we are doing with the forthcoming environment Bill. As the species champion for bitterns, which are literally booming as we speak, I know that this issue matters. We want to take more proactive approaches to how we protect species. I am not sure whether a swift box in every single house is the right thing, as opposed to all sorts of other things such as beetle hotels—there is a wide variety—but we need to make sure that we encourage a wide range of biodiversity for birds, for wildlife and for the protection of nature for future generations.

The crowing from the Department about their bird policy this morning is rather touching. The Minister will be aware that changes by the water undertakers to discharge water regulations are causing concern for the Bathroom Manufacturers Association and house builders. Will she meet me and a small delegation to discuss how future developments can better look after our waste water?

I am sure that we can work that in with the question on developers and biodiversity, Mr Speaker. I recently responded to a written question and a letter from the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he can look at that first before we consider a further meeting.

The RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, which both have fantastic reserves in my constituency in the Newport wetlands and the Magor marsh, are strongly supportive of establishing a nature recovery network to restore and repair habitats. Will the Government commit to putting that on a statutory footing?

I have the wonderful RSPB Minsmere and various Suffolk Wildlife Trust sites in my constituency. That is already our pledge. It was in the 25-year environment plan and will be in the forthcoming environment Bill.

My constituents are up in arms about the felling of trees and vegetation to make way for HS2 during the nesting season. Will my hon. Friend confirm the Government’s commitment to biodiversity net gain for new developments?

That is absolutely the case. My right hon. Friend spoke to me this morning about this issue. I will follow up on it, because when major infrastructure projects go ahead, it is important that people should have confidence, and while some vegetation might need to be removed, HS2 is supposed to be planting at least 5 million trees. We will make sure that it does so.