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Introduction to Biodiversity Net Gain

All major developments will need to provide and secure at least 10% Biodiversity Net Gain.

Environment Bill 2019-21
By Dr Les Cousins, agb Environmental Senior Ecologist and Biodiversity Net Gain specialist.

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is relatively new phrase which is increasingly being used within the development and construction industry, local planning authorities and among conservation groups. Articles are being published within trade journals informing practitioners how BNG is soon to be made mandatory with the passing of the Environment Bill 2019-21. Indeed if the bill isn’t watered down during its passage through parliament, the expectation is that all major developments will need to provide and secure 10% BNG. Industry and planners are readying themselves for a paradigm shift.

The policy has been developed in response to the recognition that biodiversity (habitats and species) is being lost at an alarming rate.  There are several pressures, not least land use change brought on by development. Biodiversity loss is having a detrimental effect upon the environment, ecosystem services and society as a whole (e.g. Making Space for Nature, 2010).

Biodiversity net gain is a form of habitat accounting which has been around for quite some time. Developers who have had experience with protected species mitigation, Biodiversity offsetting, BREEAM assessment from 2108 or habitat compensation under S41 NERC (2006) will have encountered a similar process to that which is being proposed within the Environment Bill.

At the heart of the Environment Bill is a) the promotion of a metric which provides a proxy for biodiversity value, and b) an novel legal mechanism (Conservation Covenants) intended to facilitate long term protection and security of wildlife habitat.

In practice this policy imbeds biodiversity at the initial stages of project conception and will develop with the scheme right through and beyond completion.  Biodiversity net gain can be challenging to achieve retrospectively and is often impossible to apply as a pre-completion add-on. My advice to developers is that they request biodiversity calculations with any initial site survey such as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.

Our ecologists gather geographic data in the field to synchronise with desktop geographic information system (GIS). By over-laying proposed layouts we can accurately extract spatial data and provide biodiversity metric values to inform project design. Within agb Environmental’s ecology department we a wealth of experience. I have been involved with metrics and biodiversity assessment both academically and professionally for over 10 years.

Regardless whether Biodiversity Net Gain becomes mandatory, it is an approach that is already with us. Written into nation and local planning policies and integral to the latest iteration of BREEAM accreditation, BNG is something that should be considered at the early stages of any development project.  agb Environmental can assist in not only achieving net gain but we can also help a development to provide and create meaningful and connected functioning habitats for the future benefit of wildlife and communities.

Developers and planners are welcome to contact Dr Les Cousins or any of the agb Environmental Ecology team to discuss Biodiversity Net Gain or any protected species survey requirements on 01638 663226.

Ecology, Uncategorized