CIWEM Conference: Take home messages from Environment Bank Chairman

On the 30th October 2018 The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management held a conference in London titled ‘Environmental Net Gain: Measurement, Delivery and Application.’

The conference brought together several speakers from a wide variety of different organisations and featured an opening keynote from Marie Southgate of Defra.

The Environment Bank provided two talks ‘A new countryside: restoring biodiversity in the UK by creating a Restoration Economy’ given by the chairman David Hill and ‘Biodiversity accounting: Applying metrics in practice to deliver gains for the environment’ presented by Conservation Director Louise Martland. Discussion and Q&A sessions also took place throughout the day.

Once the conference ended speakers were asked to reflect on the outcomes of the day’s discussions and to highlight headline priorities, concerns and opportunities in relation to mainstreaming biodiversity net gain in the coming years. The thoughts of The Environment Bank chairman David Hill are given below:

  1. Biodiversity net gain (BNG) has to be mandatory within the planning system whereby all planning authorities have to incorporate BNG into planning policies and supplementary planning documentation as a matter of law and to report on how they are delivering BNG in their region/authority area.

  2. Acceptance that there needs to be the right balance between on-site and offset net gain provision, acknowledging that on-site net gain is constrained and will not contribute to biodiversity restoration in the UK, which has to be the ultimate objective if we want to implement the Lawton report.

  3. The inclusion of landscaping within a site-boundary in the metric calculations for BNG must be avoided at all cost, with the acknowledgement that this is simply landscaping and not biodiversity conservation. Nor should there be trade-offs between BNG and other perceived gains from the development (such as education provision, transport, recreational greenspace etc.).

  4. Habitat banking to be the preferred and most cost-effective delivery mechanism that contributes to the restoration economy and creates biodiversity habitat and associated species, at scale.

  5. Accreditation of habitat banks and brokers by Government, which will facilitate, in association with the mandatory requirement, a market in biodiversity net gain (compensation) sites to develop rapidly and enable significant investment to come forward into the natural environment.

  6. Biodiversity net gain to lead the way as a result of the above points in order to provide the basis for other natural capital asset classes to be developed in the future, using the biodiversity net gain framework for delivery.