Protected species and maintaining native habitats will become even more critical considerations when the Biodiversity Net Gain legislation plans come into force later this year.
All planning applications in England from November this year are required to show a minimum 10% net gain requirement with all gains managed for at least 30 years (on-site or by agreement off site) and bound either under planning condition s106 or a conservation covenant.
Baseline assessments for development projects should therefore be done early to determine how the gains will be achieved, then developers make plans around it – such as with landscaping.
Early engagement of an ecologist is essential in order that potential sites can be assessed for biodiversity value and what necessary steps will be required to win planning consent.
The UK Green Building Council has prepared a series of factsheets around the details of the new proposals outlined in the Environment Act (https://ukgbc.org/news/bng-factsheet-and-definitions-launch/) .
They recognise that 50% of the UK’s economy is linked to nature and restoring natural environments is key to building a green economy.
A UKGBC spokesman said: ‘The new Biodiversity Net Gain requirements set out in the Government’s Environment Act present huge opportunities for the built environment to restore nature and build more regenerative towns and cities. Yet many organisations need more specific and practical support to build their understanding of the complex concepts involved.
BNG has the potential to transform how the UK’s built environment can play its part in restoring and regenerating nature and tackling the global ecological crisis.
“As well as enriching the natural world on which we all depend, we know that nature-positive solutions can build more resilient environments, tackle the climate crisis, and improve people’s lives, health, and wellbeing. These assets are an important step towards UKGBC’s mission of ensuring that BNG can be adopted by as many organisations as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Avoidance of damaging biodiversity is paramount in development planning considerations, followed by mitigation measures and finally compensation.
If biodiversity net gain (BNG) cannot be achieved on-site after consulting this mitigation hierarchy, off-site opportunities should be identified, giving priority to local enhancements.
It is crucial to adopt a ‘nature first’ approach in development projects, where every effort must be made to avoid causing harm to the existing biodiversity on the site. To successfully meet biodiversity targets, it is necessary to retain and work alongside existing natural features onsite, and only use offsetting as a final resort, said the UKGBC.
Alan King, MD of Syntegra, said: ‘Biodiversity must be considered in the early design stages of any project when aiming to achieve net gain.
‘Our Ecology team is available to assist with both BNG baseline assessments and any subsequent landscaping requirements. The first step in preparing for this upcoming legislation change is to engage an ecologist early on as this is a high in demand service with limited availability across the upcoming summer season.
‘We would be delighted to work with clients at this crucial stage as we have a team of experts in this field able to identify the necessary steps to be taken in order to achieve a positive planning decision for future projects.
‘This legislation is most welcome and developers will be able to play their part in building an environmentally friendly future.
‘The built environment is crucial to this country’s environmental efforts and we have a proud record of finding sustainable solutions.’
To discuss your development ideas and the impact of these new rules, please get in touch with our ecology team for an initial consultation.