The latest update to the Environment Bill, just released, confirms that all future projects involving the development of land will need to deliver a 10% biodiversity net gain. There is also a requirement to manage those enhancements for thirty years. Planning Authorities therefore now require transparent, independent, effective means of facilitating biodiversity net gain delivery. The answer is to contact the Environment Bank to establish strategically located habitat banks in their area. Some 77 Planning Authorities are engaging with us to do just that.
The Environment Bank developed the concept of habitat banking, also referred to in the Environment Bill, as a means of delivering the biodiversity net gain requirements of developments. We measure and validate the biodiversity units impacted by a development, apply a 10% gain uplift, evaluate the effectiveness of having some of the total requirements placed within the development site boundary and then sell conservation credits to the developer for the residual units impacted. These credits are derived from either bespoke offset sites in some proximity to the development area, or from large-scale habitat banks (40 – 100ha) strategically placed to maximise their biodiversity value.
We pay farmers, landowners and conservation bodies per hectare per year for a 30 year contract, under a Conservation Bank Agreement, and we monitor how the habitat banks perform according to the objectives of a Biodiversity Management Plan. We sign a Conservation Credit Purchase Agreement with the developer and issue them with Conservation Credit Certificates which they present to the Planning Authority to discharge their biodiversity net gain requirements. The model also allows transparent reporting by Planning Authorities on how they are meeting their own biodiversity targets.
Habitat banks are large-scale units that can be joined to existing reserves or used to link different habitats and sites together. The conservation credits generate from habitat banks can service multiple developments in an area. The developer is told the cost of the credits early on so that these can be factored into their development plan financials and may ultimately be accommodated through modified residual land values.
Habitat banks provide developers with clarity and certainty, increased net developable areas, no long-term on-site liabilities and a level playing field across the country.
They provide Planning Authorities with a transparent, consistent, auditable system through which net gains are delivered and new wildlife habitat secured. Biodiversity conservation is more effective by providing proper funding of gain for nature, with financial disincentives for habitat destruction, and the mechanism enables long-term and large-scale habitat conservation where biodiversity is a material consideration in the planning system.
And they provide landowners with a realistic income and long-term funding, where their land status is not affected.
We have been brokering trades in conservation credits derived from bespoke offset sites and habitat banks for a number of years. We find access to land is pretty straightforward and we are building a national registry of sites. We are now raising upfront investment so that habitat banks can be brought forward,and credits raised, early on in the process.
David is chairman and founding owner of The Environment Bank Ltd which he set up in 2006 to introduce the concept of compensation, via biodiversity offsetting and habitat banking, into the UK because of his concerns at the way biodiversity was treated within the planning and development sector.
David’s concept of biodiversity compensation, ensuring developments provide net gains to biodiversity, has been embedded in the government’s 25-year Environment Plan and National Planning Policy Framework.