The government yesterday announced a consultation on whether new developments should provide a net-gain for biodiversity (https://consult.defra.gov.uk/land-use/net-gain/consultation/ )
Since introducing the concept of biodiversity offsetting to the UK back in 2009, which is now embraced within ‘biodiversity net gain’, I have been amazed at how long it actually takes for society and leaders to get behind ‘doing the right thing’.
Michael Gove should be congratulated for seeing the idea as a way of making development deliver value to the natural environment on the back of receiving planning permission. For too long we have failed to properly account for biodiversity in the planning and development control sector because there was too much interest in not disclosing the effective impacts. As a result, and coupled with poor mitigation delivery within the development site boundary, biodiversity has become impoverished.
Good developers are already adopting biodiversity net gain principles. But a mandatory approach, in which all planning authorities require all development to provide biodiversity net gain, just as the Ecosystem Markets Taskforce recommended back in 2013, will provide certainty and a level playing field so that a developer can understand what needs to be done to make a development compliant, wherever his development is located.
Brokerage, as provided by the Environment Bank, has been shown through detailed research to be the most cost-effective way of delivering biodiversity offset sites as a critical part of biodiversity net gain, where large-scale habitats are created, enhanced, and managed within a long-term framework.
Requiring all development to deliver biodiversity net gain through a mandatory regime will be simpler and more straightforward than a voluntary system, will help development do the right thing and provide much needed investment into the natural environment, creating, in the process, a Restoration Economy.