Achieving No Net Loss of Biodiversity on the Greater West Programme
The Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2) and Network Rail are working together to offer an exciting funding opportunity for biodiversity in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
Network Rail Infrastructure Projects (IP), the division responsible for delivering railway upgrades, is committed to a “measurable net positive contribution towards biodiversity in the UK”. No Net Loss to Biodiversity on the Greater West Programme (TGWP) is a pilot project, putting principle into practice by compensating for unavoidable habitat loss (mainly young semi-natural woodland and some scrub) during the electrification programme.
Although scrub, grassland and other low-lying habitats will grow back where trees have been removed, there has been some unavoidable loss to biodiversity. Funding is available for the creation and improvement of similar habitats to those that have been lost, including funds for up to three years aftercare, in the vicinity of the railway line, a process known as “biodiversity offsetting”. This is a voluntary commitment by Network Rail, not bound to any planning obligations or client requirements.
Independent environmental funder TOE2 is working with Network Rail to deliver No Net Loss (NNL) funding in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. TOE2 is a charity supporting local environmental projects, offering expertise in identifying and running projects effectively. Although TOE2 is Oxfordshire based, projects in Berkshire and Oxfordshire are being invited to apply for this funding. The programme is to be delivered over a four-year period. Projects are expected between the range of £10,000 and £100,000.
What biodiversity projects are eligible?
- Creating new woodland, providing better links and connectivity between woodlands, and enhancing existing woodland and scrub mosaic; other habitats could also be considered if in close proximity to the railway line
- Orchards, hedgerows and trees outside of woodlands are eligible
- Preference for large projects (e.g. 5ha woodland enhancement or 10ha new woodland planting) or clusters of smaller projects (e.g. five 1 ha sites)
- Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) can be considered
- A key aim is to improve good quality areas by making them bigger and better connected to other wildlife sites and to improve the quality of existing habitats, in line with the Oxfordshire State of Nature Report (www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk/stateofnature/reports/) and Berkshire’s Biodiversity Action Plan 2014-2020 (http://berkshirelnp.org/index.php/what-we-do/strategy/biodiversity-action-plan)
- Projects need to ensure lasting benefits to wildlife habitats, at least 30 years and beyond
Where can projects be supported?
The projects should be as local as possible to the railway line within the following local authority areas:
- Oxford City
- South Oxfordshire
- Vale of White Horse
- West Berkshire
- Reading Borough
- Wokingham Borough
- Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
What is the timeframe?
- The programme will be delivered over a four-year period
- Stage 1 applications (outline project proposals) will be welcome from September 2017
- Next Stage 1 application deadlines are 5th February and 9th April 2018
Who can apply?
- Parish councils and other local authorities, local charities, not-for-profit organisations, and landowners
- A collaboration of organisations would bring strength to a project
How will the process work?
- TOE2 will reach out to potential applicants and promote the scheme
- Stage 1 outline project proposals will be submitted to Network Rail at NetworkRailBiodiversityNNL@networkrail.co.uk
- Network Rail will review the Stage 1 proposals and draw up a shortlist, in collaboration with TOE2
- Shortlisted projects will be invited to submit a Stage 2 detailed application to TOE2
- TOE2 will process Stage 2 applications, organise assessments and consider them at quarterly Grant Panel meetings