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New net gain paper - Why the UK needs to reverse biodiversity loss NOW

A new WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff report has concluded that the time has come for a net gain approach in the UK - something EB are already working to deliver in a number of Local Authorities.

The concept - described within the report - has already been adopted internationally and by a number of major UK infrastructure companies. Along with interviews with UK experts, the authors drew on the practical experiences from around the world to make six recommendations:

  1. Biodiversity net gain and the use of the DEFRA metric could be an obligatory part of the National Planning Policy Framework.

  2. Biodiversity net gain could be incorporated into DEFRA’s forthcoming 25 year environment plan.

  3. The most recent DEFRA guidance for biodiversity offsetting could be revised, with the offsetting metric used to measure biodiversity net gain tightened, whilst maintaining simplicity.

  4. Creating a consistent understanding of guidance at a local level could create a level playing field for developers.

  5. Biodiversity net gain could be incorporated at a corporate level and in private sector developments.

  6. Collaboration to build an evidence base of the long term performance of biodiversity net gain developments.

The paper reviews the continued decline of biodiversity in the UK (40% of the most important habitats, 30% of the rarest species) and that to achieve the no net loss target of the “Biodiversity 2020” strategy, reforms must be made in how we deal with the the impacts of development.

The Defra metric - already tested 2 years ago in Government pilots - is being used by a number of Planning Authorities who are implementing the system locally (see Our Projects for examples) and is central to the net gain approach described. If offsets are needed as a result of metric calculations, the report reviews the principles of the international collaborative Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) as an important standard for successfully achieving no net loss (or net gain).

A survey of 200 environmental experts (including EB) revealed a number of interesting realities;

  • Over half of respondents felt that the offsetting system would help to achieve net gain.
  • 40% respondents have used the approach but only 29% arranged offsets (hence, they were a last resort)
  • Less than 1% have a negative view of the approach (despite any controversial media coverage)
  • The majority of respondents still lacked full understanding of the approach - which needs to be addressed.