Project, paid for by developers, aims to create wildlife habitats, provide flood mitigation and store carbon

A pilot scheme to improve the quality of natural landscapes and redress the biodiversity lost from new building developments has been launched today.

The scheme, put forward by The Environment Bank, will be paid for entirely by developers, not the tax payer.

It works by incentivisng developers to buy conservation credits to compensate for the ecosystem lost by new development and aims to restore extensive areas of land elsewhere to create new wildlife habitats, provide flood mitigation and store carbon.

The first pilot scheme and the UK’s largest conservation initiative is the Thames Headwaters Conservation Credits Project, run in partnership with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and three wildlife trusts – Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Berks Bucks and Oxon.

Conservation Credits will be used to fund conservation and other ecosystem services for over 1,000 square miles of land to reconnect fragmented habitats. This will include the creation of wildlife corridors, wetlands, woodlands and diverse grasslands across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. It will repopulate the landscape with native species of flora and fauna lost to 60 years of intensive land use, filter fresh water, enable climate change adaptation as well as providing attractive places to visit.

Rob Gillespie, managing director of The Environment Bank said - “We believe this pilot should work because it’s the first time we’re applying a market-based mechanism for enormous long-term benefits. Developers can see the benefits of greater clarity in the planning process, more predictable outcomes in terms of the net developable area and faster planning applications, as well as avoidance of costly delay. Land owners gain from a potential additional income stream from implementing and managing ecosystem services, including wildlife conservation, on their land.”