DEVELOPERS in Swansea will need to leave sites they build on more biodiverse than they were to start with, under draft planning guidance.

Their first step should be identifying important habitats, then avoiding their loss, and integrating new and existing biodiversity into the development.

If habitat loss can’t be avoided, they should take steps to mitigate and compensate for the loss.

This “net benefit” idea is part of legislation in Wales which requires councils to maintain and enhance biodiversity in all of their decision-making.

Swansea Council’s planning committee approved two sets of draft supplementary planning guidance on biodiversity and trees at a meeting on July 22.

Addressing the committee, strategic planning team leader Tom Evans said: “There have been some really significant changes in national guidance and legislation on this whole issue.

“Developers are all getting their heads around the impact and the implications of that.”

The draft biodiversity guidance, he said, spelled out exactly what developers need to do.

It dovetails with some council objectives which are already in place.

Also explaining the draft guidance was principal planner, Rachel Willis, who said: “The final development should have left the site in a better ecological state than when it began.”

She said this was “quite tricky” to achieve.

Examples could include special bricks in houses for swifts and bats, and hedgehog openings in garden fences.

Wider streets could be required at larger-scale developments to accommodate trees and grass verges, and more ponds created to improve drainage and attract wildlife.

The draft tree guidance updates existing policy and seeks to retain more categories of trees at development sites.

Committee members supported the proposals but asked if developers could be put off by additional costs, and how trees should be protected on land the council sells off.

The two sets of draft guidance will now go out for consultation for a minimum of six weeks before a final version is brought before cabinet later in the year.

The council’s biodiversity champion, Cllr Peter Jones, said: “I’m very impressed by this consultation document – it’s very detailed, very comprehensive, very encouraging.”

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