Biodiversity and planning

The protection of the natural environment is an important and integral part of the planning system.  Our planning policy makes clear that there should be no net loss of biodiversity (overall) from development, and that where there is opportunity, development will be expected to enhance Oxford's biodiversity.

Development should, therefore:

  • be sensitive to potential impacts on biodiversity, and consider alternative designs or locations
  • avoid damaging areas of nature conservation value (whether designated or not)
  • aim to minimise any unavoidable effects through appropriate mitigations
  • offer compensation for those impacts that cannot be avoided or adequately mitigated
  • seek opportunities to enhance biodiversity within new developments
  • establish linkages between habitats to create functional ecological networks.

Where planning permission is granted, it may be necessary to incorporate safeguards as part of the scheme, by condition and/or legal agreement.

What to consider when making a planning application

We are responsible for ensuring potential impacts of planning decisions on biodiversity are fully considered.  Where there is evidence or a reasonable likelihood of the presence of protected and priority habitats and species, planning applications must be accompanied by an up to date ecological assessment prepared by a suitably qualified expert.  If you do not provide us with adequate information to allow us to fully consider your application, it will not be validated and you run the risk of delays and possible refusal.

Developments falling within the following criteria are likely to have biodiversity impacts, and you are advised to seek professional advice before submitting an application:

  • Works on or near to a site of value for nature conservation
  • New build on or near to greenfield and brownfield sites
  • Works within 10 metres of a watercourse or 250 metres of a pond
  • Hedgerow removal
  • Demolition of buildings
  • Barn conversions
  • Loft conversions
  • Works to bridges, underground structures and tunnels
  • Changes of use with associated works involving alterations to the roof structure.

In Oxford, the key protected species most likely to be encountered are:

  • Badger
  • Bats (all species)
  • Birds (all species)
  • Grass snake
  • Great crested newt
  • Otter
  • Slow worm
  • Water vole.

Pre-application advice

Pre-application discussions with our ecologist will highlight potential ecological issues and the need for surveys at the earliest possible stage and may help to avoid unnecessary and costly delay later in the planning process. 

Some ecological surveys can only be carried out at certain times of the year, and the presence of protected species may mean that you will need to make changes to your proposal. Please refer to our Pre-application advice pages.  

Opportunities for biodiversity enhancement

All new developments should contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity wherever possible. For example, through:

  • New habitat creation as part of landscaping schemes and Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
  • Tree and hedge planting
  • Installation of artificial nesting and roosting sites
  • Green roofs and walls.

Natural England advice notes

For further information and guidance applicants can refer to the following documents: