Biodiversity Net Gain
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an ecological principle which is achieved when a development or project leaves biodiversity in a better state than before. It is also an approach where developers work with local governments, wildlife groups, landowners, and other stakeholders to support their priorities for nature conservation (CIEEM, CIRIA, IEMA, 2016).
Biodiversity Net Gain
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is the ecological principle whereby a development site that has been granted planning permission leaves the natural environment in a measurably improved state than it started. This is generally accepted through the Environment Act 2021 to be a 10% net gain through habitat creation and enhancement.
The approach of BNG relies on developers, land owners and individuals developing land to work with local governments, wildlife groups, landowners, and other stakeholders to support their priorities for nature conservation (CIEEM, CIRIA, IEMA, 2016).
At Wharton, we work with our clients to ensure you not only comply with the legislation but also to ensure your project is commercially viable in relation to BNG from the outset. Our dedicated team of ecologists and landscape architects will enable you to deliver the balance between the built and natural environments. This not only enables you to achieve planning permission but also ensures you are making measurable improvements to the environment. This generally means creating better communities, increased speed of sale, high sale values and a legacy to your project.
WHY IS BNG IMPORTANT?
Biodiversity Net Gain provides an invaluable opportunity to ensure that developments and construction projects enhance wildlife and people’s ability to experience nature where they live and work for years ahead. BNG also provides a unique opportunity to put nature back at the heart of planning and development, working in line with a developer’s green targets.
With around 180,000 homes being built in England each year and thousands more commercial developments underway, it’s crucial that Biodiversity Net Gain is a key focus of every project. Landowners, developers and local councils must consider the potential impact of a development or project on people, wildlife and the environment as a whole.
The benefits of Biodiversity Net Gain can be far-reaching. As well as having greener places to live, BNG can also provide more wildlife habitats and natural flood protection. In contrast, developing without factoring in these elements will create both short and long-term negative effects. With prevention always being favoured over a cure, now is the time to put the best practices into place based on what we already know about threats to our environment.
Therefore, BNG is important because it seeks to create the best outcomes. It ensures that any new developments or construction projects do not come at a cost to the local environment or all those who live and work in it.
Biodiversity Net Gain is a team effort which also highlights its importance, in that it requires all applicable parties to comply. Working together is how we can solve the climate crisis and any future environmental challenges we face. It is without a doubt that BNG underpins all of this essential work.
WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL BILL?
The environmental bill is also known as the Environment Act 2021.
The UK Government brought in the Environment Act 2021 with the intention of outlining targets, plans and policies for various environmental causes. It is hoped the bill will encourage better conversation and biodiversity by tackling all of the threats to our environment.
Some of the issues the environmental bill covers include:
- Air pollution
- Plastic consumption
- Waste management
- Wildlife conservation
Having such a framework in place is important for two reasons. Firstly, it outlines tangible steps that businesses and organisations need to take, especially since the UK has now left the EU.
Also, having the Environment Act 2021 in place means that it becomes easier to identify breaches of the required standards that could threaten biodiversity. As well as making it easier to inform and educate all applicable parties, this means that planning permission and even potential prosecutions will be subject to a consistent, rigorous process. All of which means potentially harmful actions or decisions can be best avoided.
WHAT DOES BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN MEAN FOR DEVELOPERS & LANDOWNERS?
Anyone undertaking land development, or who owns land needs to consider biodiversity net gain. In short, the considerations must focus on how any work can be undertaken without compromising the environment. In addition, other projects may need to be facilitated to offset any potential disruption to the local ecosystem.
Traditionally, land development has caused biodiversity to decline. This can be easily seen in urban environments whereby very little green space or other natural habits exist, where once they thrived. Beyond the impact on wildlife, towns and cities can also suffer from poor air quality and flood threats due to planning without biodiversity in mind.
Owning or developing land with biodiversity in mind looks to limit such poor outcomes for people, nature and the land itself.
A simple (and by no means exhaustive) example of what a project could entail would be planting trees around a new housing development. These trees would provide natural habits for wildlife while helping to capture carbon from nearby traffic pollution.
HOW IS THE VALUE OF A SITE CALCULATED?
The value of a development site is calculated by considering four major factors:
The area/length of the habitats.
The habitat types present at a development site and their ‘distinctiveness’ (loosely translated to their ecological importance).
The condition those habitats are in, compared to the reference Habitats based on published condition criteria.
Whether any of those habitats are strategically significant or in an ecologically desirable location (such as in green infrastructure plans, local biodiversity action plans etc.)
To calculate Biodiversity Net Gain, your ecologist will go through the following process during the baseline assessment:
Undertake a site visit to classify, map, and assess the condition of the habitats at your development site.
Measure the size of the habitats in an appropriately geo-referenced digital mapping system.
Check local policies to determine the strategic significance of habitats (if any).
Input the data into the relevant biodiversity metric.
Once the baseline assessment is complete, your ecologist can inform you how many ‘biodiversity units’ your site contains and how many units need to be provided in line with local policy.
HOW IS BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN DELIVERED?
On paper, Biodiversity Net Gain is assessed by undertaking an initial habitat survey and habitat condition assessment, then comparing the pre-development habitats to the post-development habitats (usually as detailed in a landscaping plan).
There are then several options for the physical delivery of BNG, including habitat creation and enhancement on-site, habitat creation and enhancement off-site, and/or the purchase of habitat ‘credits’ from local schemes or via the central Government’s credit bank.
DOES BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN NEED TO BE DELIVERED RIGHT NOW?
The principle of Biodiversity Net Gain has been enshrined in the Environment Act 2021, which stipulates that all development under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) must deliver a minimum of 10% BNG by the end of 2023.
There is currently a two-year transition period for a range of secondary supporting legislation to be produced, as well as Habitat Banks, the Credits System and Local Nature Recovery Strategies to be implemented before 10% can be mandated. After this period, all relevant development under the TCPA will have to deliver a minimum of 10% BNG.
HOW DO I FACTOR IN BNG TO AVOID SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS OR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS?
The key to understanding your Biodiversity Net Gain requirements is to engage an ecologist as early in the design and planning process as possible; this enables detailed guidance right from the start of the development or project. Liaison with the local planning authority to understand policy requirements and local delivery methods is also critical, as it ensures that the process of delivering BNG is clearly understood from day one.
Hire a Professional Ecological Consultant
Since 2008, we have established a team with extensive experience with all types of surveys, including BS5837 Tree Surveys for planning, Tree Surveys and Reports for risk management, Ecological Surveys including Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, Preliminary Roost Assessments, Protected Species Surveys, and Biodiversity Net Gain.
Our highly qualified and experienced team of ecological consultants and specialists has a proven track record of assisting our clients in identifying successful natural-infrastructure solutions and nature conservation for even the most complex projects. We strive to consistently deliver high-quality, practical and innovative ecological consultancy services on a consistent basis while adhering to environmental laws, wildlife legislation, industry legislation, policy, and best practices.
Our ecological consultant listens to our clients; collaboration is one of our four core values, and it shows in the success we’ve shared with them in maximising development opportunities, managing trees and woodlands or enhancing biodiversity and landscapes while delivering the best environmental solutions. Our certified and professional ecology consultants have solid experience in helping with environmental conservation problems like air quality, water quality, waste management and reclaiming contaminated land.
Simply put – we understand natural infrastructure. Trust us that our ecological consultants have the expertise and key skills to help you design and plan a successful development, mitigate and compensate for impacts, manage risks and keep your project moving forward.
Get your Biodiversity Net Gain Quote
Our in-house experts will be able to provide you with a cost for undertaking a BNG assessment on your site if this is required by the Local Planning Authority. We’re also happy to discuss any questions you may have over the phone to put your mind at ease and talk you through our approach and the process.
For a no-obligation quotation please fill in the form to the right and one of our consultants will be in touch.
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