A MAJOR employer has welcomed new legislation which embeds biodiversity net gain as a legal requirement in development planning for the first time.

Improving biodiversity by at least 10 per cent has become a legal obligation on developers of housing, commercial and industrial sites. 

Planning applications submitted from Monday, February 12 must show that biodiversity net gain associated with their projects will be achieved, either on or off-site.

AWE is home to several rare and protected species because of the extent and varied habitats across its sites, including Aldermaston. 

AWE's own ecologists and environmental experts have spent many years preserving, improving and managing areas for wildlife, trees and plants.

Biodiversity lead Piran Borlase-Hendry said: “We introduced the requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain over four years ago at AWE so we are very pleased to see that a requirement for developers and planners to improve biodiversity is now captured in law.

"We are passionate about protecting and enhancing the biodiversity on our sites, which offer a unique refuge for many species.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Peregrine Falcon at AWEPeregrine Falcon at AWE (Image: AWE)

“Our environmental management system links to everything that we do so, for example, we carry out ecological surveys before any activity that may impact species and their habitats, whether it is construction, demolition, estate management, experimental trials or even drone flights.

“But it’s not just about compensating for biodiversity loss; our aim is not only to halt the decline of nature across our sites but to proactively reverse it. The loss of biodiversity is a global issue and that is why it is so vital to understand how to address that at local, national and international levels.”

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The AWE estate includes several priority habitats including lowland heath and wood-pasture.

The habitats are home to over 30 species of breeding birds, including more highly protected species such as woodlark, kingfisher and peregrine falcons, five species of amphibians, four species of reptiles, at least four species of bat, and ancient oak trees.

This week, AWE will begin planting trees at its Burghfield site, to start an orchard covering 2.5 hectares. Two hundred trees will be planted initially, with the aim of planting up to 400.

The project will also fulfil Greening Government Commitments by providing pollinator-friendly habitat and canopy cover, aiding site flood management defences and providing carbon capture.

More information can be found at awe.co.uk.