Increasing Land for Nature in East Cambridgeshire – getting ahead of the legislation 

East Cambs District Council Conservatives are committed to doubling land for nature in our district and to reversing the truly alarming decline in natural habitats and species.
Pauline's Swamp - Burwell
Pauline's Swamp - Burwell

Only 5.5% of land in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is in use for priority habitats, natural green spaces, and designated conservation.

We’re getting ahead of forthcoming legislation to help big developers and other planning applicants to understand and deliver biodiversity net gain (BNG) before it becomes mandatory later this year when the Environment Act 2021 comes into force.    

The basic idea of BNG is that biodiversity will be in a measurably better state after new development has happened than before the development took place, hence the term ‘net gain’.    

The Council has adopted and published a really accessible, and I believe inspiring, guidance document which will also be of interest to landowners, community groups and anyone wanting to increase biodiversity on their land.  The document includes lots of really lovely photos across the district taken by Council staff – they are brilliant photographers! 

You can view the document here

We’re really excited by this at the Council and our planners are geared up to support developers to embrace it.  We’re aiming to inspire developers, to help them see the amazing opportunity that this presents to deliver really high quality and attractive places where people want to live and where nature can thrive.  And it seems to be going down really well! 

This work builds on and supports delivery of our Environment Plan.  The guidance describes the BNG hierarchy; developers are asked to achieve BNG on site within the red line boundary of the application.  If it’s impossible to achieve on site, then they are required to boost land for nature within one of the nine priority areas we’ve identified in East Cambs.  We will also be looking to create ‘stepping stones’ or ‘corridors’ between sites. 

The nine areas are spread right across the district. Each one has its own special qualities and recommendations, from improving our wetlands to extensive tree planting, and from meadow creation to chalk grassland improvements. 

The aim will be to save, protect and encourage native species, such as the long horned beetle, great crested newt, dagger moth, snipe, black tailed godwit, green tiger beetle, spotted cat’s ear and black bog rush. It will also help more common species of animals and plants that are in severe decline. 

The nine areas identified are: 

  • Wicken Fen – creating more fenland, wetland and meadow habitats supported by hedgerows, ponds and small scale woodland planting 
  • Ouse Washes – creating areas of wet grassland and conserving peat soils to support breeding and wintering birds 
  • Newmarket Chalk Grasslands - restoring and creating new chalk grassland habitats, in particular next to Devil’s Dyke 
  • Chippenham Fen and River Snail – creating new grassland habits and small wetland areas 
  • Breckland Edge – providing habitats for rare flowers, especially around the River Kennett and Chippenham Avenue Fields County Wildlife Site 
  • Soham Grasslands - creating meadows, hedgerows, ponds and drains to encourage species like the great crested newt 
  • Boulder Clay Woodlands - restoring ancient woodland and planting new native woodland 
  • Chettisham Meadows to Ely North Country Park – restoring and creating lowland meadows, hedgerows and ponds 
  • River Corridors Habitat – enhancing floodplains around the Great Ouse, Cam, Lark, Little Ouse and Soham Lode 

We’re really going for this in East Cambs – we’re determined to make a difference and to give back to nature the environment and habitats that it needs to recover, to proliferate and to thrive.