BioCap's Ed Cooper shared a platform with a DEFRA minister, The Rt Hon the Lord Benyon of Englefield, and Tim Delaney from the South Downs National Park at West Berkshire's first Rural Business Forum on 4th November 2022.
Richard reminded the audience of his environmental commitment and left the room hoping that he is able to deliver his vision for the countryside across Government. Ed outlined the progress being made on the Sulham Woodmeadows project where the plan is to transform 130ha of arable land into a landscape of meadows, woodlands, and hedgerows full of wildlife. The opportunities this production of Natural Capital might provide landowners through biodiversity net gain, carbon sequestration and more were discussed. Tim very clearly set out how the South Downs National Park, as a large planning authority, were approaching the use of Natural solutions in the countryside and made a compelling case for the use of long term whole-estate plans being a key vehicle to help landowners, planners and the public to reach balanced decisions on land/building use in the countryside.
During the debate there was a consensus that whole-estate plans could be a way forward for the rural sector. Lord Benyon took away the point that Biodiversity Net Gain, Nutrient Neutrality and other proposals could slow the planning system down for small developments if the requirement for offsite BNG, nutrient credits etc could not be managed by a third party aggregator able to run and manage viable natural capital projects at scale such as Sulham. The Trust For Oxfordshire’s Environment operate with this aggregation model in Oxfordshire. Overall a very successful forum and BioCap look forward to being part of the follow up events.