Nearly all of our wildlife outside of protected areas is declining – all the evidence on this is very clear (* State of Nature Report 2013). In part, this is due to the failings of the current planning systems to adequately account for the impacts of development on nature conservation. We need a better accounting method that makes impact assessment quantitative. This is now achievable – by introducing the ‘biodiversity offsetting metric’ into all planning decisions.
The ‘offsetting metric’ does not always lead to ‘biodiversity offsetting’. In fact the use of the metric often leads to further avoidance of habitat loss, and more and better mitigation of habitat loss. Compensation, or biodiversity offsetting, only comes as a last resort – but where it is needed, then it should be delivered to the highest standards.
The biodiversity metric
The biodiversity metric was developed and produced by Natural England and Defra. It is a national, rigorous and consistent tool for calculating the environmental ‘impact’ of any development scheme and the environmental ‘gain’ of any habitat creation scheme. We use the biodiversity metric to determine the impact of development on wildlife habitats and, having first tried to avoid and mitigate any effects, we can, if necessary, secure funding to enable the re-creation and restoration of those habitats in alternative locations within the surrounding area. These alternative sites are managed for conservation and help improve wildlife connectivity in the wider countryside. It is a process that sits alongside existing planning policy and environmental protection laws – like a safety net to prevent biodiversity loss. You can find out more about the advantages of biodiversity offsetting in our information sheets The Advantages of a Mandatory System and Busting the Offsetting Myths.