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Biodiversity Net Gain finally to be mandated as a requirement of the planning system

The Environment Bank was established by David Hill in 2006 to lobby for a better way of delivering mitigation and compensation for development impacts on biodiversity. We have been promoting mitigation banking/habitat banking, biodiversity offsetting and gains to biodiversity through development for the past 12 years. We are proud that our work has now paid off and we can enjoy much greater and more effective investment into the natural environment as a result of development having to account properly for its biodiversity impacts and to essentially pay the true cost of the use of land.

The Government announced on 13th March 2019 that biodiversity net gain is to be made a mandatory requirement of the planning and development control system. The Chancellors spring 2019 statement states :

‘To ensure that wildlife isn’t compromised in delivering necessary infrastructure and housing, the government will mandate net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity’. Full text at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/spring-statement-2019-what-you-need-to-know

This is a game-changer of monumental proportions and is the culmination of the Environment Bank’s lobbying, research and delivery work over the past 12 years. It means that the development system, comprising developers, planning authorities and consultants, has to account for impacts on biodiversity in a quantitative way and then ensure that more biodiversity exists after the development than existed before it.

Developers will be required by all planning authorities (in England at present) to have the impacts of their developments calculated using the Governments agreed biodiversity impact accounting metric. They will then need to review whether they can retain or enhance some biodiversity within the boundary of the development site, but will need to compensate offsite for that which cannot be accommodated within the development.

As the brief wording stands it appears that emphasis is placed on retaining and enhancing biodiversity within the boundary of the development site and only in certain circumstances will offsite provision be required. However, we know, through our own experiences, that it will not be possible in the majority of cases, to both have development at scale and gains to biodiversity and its long term conservation management within a site boundary.

Given the significant financial, logistic and management constraints of delivering and retaining and managing biodiversity within an active development site (for 25+ years) there will undoubtedly be a requirement for offsite offset areas (eg habitat banks) as originally and persistently proposed by the Environment Bank.

Environment Bank is now therefore looking to fund a series of large habitat banks (40-100ha), working with local planning authorities, in accordance with spatial coherence to maximise ecological value at a local and landscape level.

We are keen to hear from planning authorities who would be interested to work with us now that the direction of travel from Government has been made clear.

March 2019