In today’s rapidly changing world, it is crucial to prioritize sustainable development practices that promote biodiversity conservation. As we move towards a greener future, a new requirement for development planning will come into force in November. This requirement focuses on enhancing on-site biodiversity net gain, ensuring that developments contribute to the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.
Developers will be required to demonstrate how their projects will achieve a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain, which must be maintained for at least 30 years. This requirement applies to both current and future planning applications, emphasizing the importance of considering biodiversity in all stages of development.
In this article, we will explore the significance of on-site biodiversity net gain and how it contributes to the establishment of green infrastructure. We will also delve into the strategies for achieving net gain, the importance of biodiversity net gain plans, and the option of off-site biodiversity net gain. Finally, we will discuss the implementation timeline and the comparison of the UK’s scheme with other international biodiversity trading schemes.
On-site biodiversity net gain plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development and environmental conservation. It addresses the ecological impact of development and contributes to the establishment of green infrastructure. By enhancing biodiversity on-site, developers can create valuable habitats and support the conservation and restoration of priority species and habitats.
Moreover, on-site biodiversity net gain provides numerous ecosystem services, such as improved water and air quality, soil health, and carbon sequestration. These benefits have a positive impact on the overall well-being of both humans and wildlife. Through on-site measures, developers can preserve and enhance biodiversity, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.
Implementing on-site biodiversity net gain measures also aligns with the principles of ecological impact assessment. This process allows developers to evaluate the potential ecological consequences of their projects and develop strategies to mitigate negative impacts. By considering the importance of green infrastructure and environmental conservation, developers can ensure a harmonious coexistence between human development and the natural environment.
Achieving on-site biodiversity net gain involves implementing a range of measures to restore and enhance habitats, promote ecosystem services, and provide ecological enhancements. These actions contribute to the overall goal of achieving a minimum 10% net gain in biodiversity for development projects. By following the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy, developers can ensure that their projects have a positive impact on biodiversity and contribute to the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.
Habitat restoration is a key component of on-site biodiversity net gain. This involves restoring or creating habitats such as wetlands, woodlands, and meadows. By carefully selecting native plant species and creating suitable conditions for their growth, developers can support the return of biodiversity to the site. This not only provides valuable habitats for wildlife but also enhances the ecological value of the development site.
Implementing ecological enhancements is another effective way to achieve on-site biodiversity net gain. These enhancements can include the installation of green roofs, which provide additional habitat for plants and insects, as well as pollinator-friendly planting and wildlife-friendly landscaping. By incorporating these features into the development design, developers can create a more biodiverse environment and support the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination and natural pest control.
Biodiversity Net Gain Plans (BGP) are an integral part of demonstrating compliance with biodiversity net gain requirements. These plans assess the pre-development biodiversity value of on-site habitats and define the post-development biodiversity value. The BGP should also outline how the development will achieve the required 10% net gain in each habitat category. To assess biodiversity value, a competent person, knowledgeable in applying the Biodiversity Metric, must evaluate and report the biodiversity value of the site.
The Biodiversity Metric, published by Natural England, is a tool used to measure biodiversity value and assess net gain. It assigns a biodiversity unit value to each habitat category, allowing for quantification of pre-development and post-development biodiversity values. The Biodiversity Metric 4.0 is the current version used for determining net gain. It ensures that a 10% net gain is achieved in each habitat category. The assessment is conducted by a competent person who evaluates the biodiversity value of the site at the date of the planning application.
A comprehensive BGP includes specific details of the site’s existing habitats, as well as proposed enhancements and habitat creation schemes. It should also identify any off-site initiatives that contribute to net gain. In addition, the BGP should provide a monitoring and management plan to ensure the long-term success of biodiversity net gain. The BGP plays a crucial role in demonstrating how a development project will contribute to on-site biodiversity and fulfill the requirements of the net gain policy.
|Pre-Development Biodiversity Value
|Post-Development Biodiversity Value
|32 biodiversity units
|40 biodiversity units
|+8 biodiversity units
|20 biodiversity units
|25 biodiversity units
|+5 biodiversity units
|10 biodiversity units
|15 biodiversity units
|+5 biodiversity units
The table above provides an example of how a Biodiversity Net Gain Plan can quantify the pre-development and post-development biodiversity values in different habitat categories. It demonstrates the net gain achieved in each category, showcasing the positive impact of the development on biodiversity. This level of detail is necessary to ensure a comprehensive assessment of net gain and compliance with the biodiversity net gain requirements.
In some cases, achieving on-site biodiversity net gain may not be feasible due to site constraints or other factors. In such situations, developers have the option to secure off-site biodiversity net gain to meet the required targets. Off-site biodiversity net gain involves generating biodiversity units through registered off-site sites and selling them to developments to offset their net gain deficit. These registered sites can be owned by landowners or public bodies who become biodiversity net gain site operators. Additionally, developers can sell any excess biodiversity units they have achieved.
The process of securing off-site biodiversity net gain requires legal guarantees to ensure the long-term maintenance of the net gain. This can be achieved through planning obligations or conservation covenants. Planning obligations involve a legally binding agreement between developers and the local planning authority, while conservation covenants are agreements with responsible bodies. Both types of agreements must be registered on Natural England’s register and provide a minimum 30-year guarantee for the net gain achieved.
To facilitate the implementation of off-site biodiversity net gain, Natural England maintains a register of off-site biodiversity net gain sites. This register helps developers and local planning authorities identify and access suitable sites for generating biodiversity units. It also ensures transparency and accountability in the off-site net gain process. Developers and local planning authorities should consult this register to ensure compliance with the requirements and to secure the necessary biodiversity units for their developments.
|Identify the need for off-site biodiversity net gain
|Explore registered off-site biodiversity net gain sites
|Secure biodiversity units from site operators
|Include biodiversity units in development plans
|Ensure legal guarantees through planning obligations or conservation covenants
|Register agreements on Natural England’s register
The off-site biodiversity net gain process provides a flexible option for developers to achieve their net gain targets when on-site opportunities are limited. By collaborating with site operators and securing biodiversity units from registered off-site sites, developers can contribute to overall biodiversity conservation and enhance the ecological value of their developments.
Measuring biodiversity is a crucial step in achieving on-site biodiversity net gain. The Biodiversity Metric is a tool used to assess biodiversity value and determine net gain. It assigns a biodiversity unit value to each habitat category and quantifies the pre-development and post-development biodiversity values of a site. The current version of the Biodiversity Metric used is 4.0, and it ensures that a 10% net gain is achieved in each habitat category.
The Biodiversity Metric focuses on habitat categories rather than individual species, allowing for a more comprehensive assessment. By considering the collective value of habitats, it encourages the creation and enhancement of diverse ecosystems. A competent person, trained in applying the metric, assesses the biodiversity value of the site at the date of the planning application. This assessment forms the basis for developing a Biodiversity Net Gain Plan.
Implementing the Biodiversity Metric provides a standardized approach to measuring and achieving biodiversity net gain. It ensures that developers and planning authorities have a clear framework for assessing and monitoring biodiversity on development sites. By using a consistent metric, comparisons can be made across different developments, facilitating the evaluation of progress towards national biodiversity targets. The Biodiversity Metric is an essential tool in promoting sustainable development and the long-term conservation of our natural environment.
The Biodiversity Metric assigns unit values to different habitat categories to reflect their relative biodiversity importance. For example, wetlands and coastal habitats are assigned higher unit values due to their significant ecological significance. By incorporating these values into the assessment process, the Biodiversity Metric ensures that the net gain is distributed across different habitats, promoting a diverse and resilient landscape.
Securing biodiversity net gain in development planning is a crucial step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems. To guarantee the maintenance of achieved net gain and protect biodiversity, legal guarantees are necessary. Developers and local planning authorities can achieve this through planning obligations or conservation covenants.
Planning obligations are legally binding agreements between developers and local planning authorities. These agreements outline the requirements and conditions for achieving net gain and specify the actions that developers must undertake to meet these requirements. Planning obligations are registered on Natural England’s register and ensure that the net gain is maintained for a minimum of 30 years.
Conservation covenants, on the other hand, are agreements between developers and responsible bodies. These bodies, often conservation charities or public bodies, oversee the long-term management and protection of biodiversity on the development site. Like planning obligations, conservation covenants must also be registered on Natural England’s register and guarantee the maintenance of net gain for a minimum of 30 years.
Both planning obligations and conservation covenants play an essential role in securing biodiversity net gain. They provide a legal framework that binds successors-in-title and ensures that the achieved net gain is preserved over time. By implementing these measures, developers and local planning authorities can contribute to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity, creating a more biodiverse and resilient environment for future generations.
The implementation of biodiversity net gain requirements is set to start in November 2023, with planning applications being subject to the 10% net gain condition. Developers will need to demonstrate how their development will achieve at least 10% biodiversity net gain, which should be maintained for a minimum of 30 years. This means that developers must follow the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy, including avoidance, minimization, restoration, and off-setting, to achieve net gain on-site.
Local planning authorities are currently implementing a “shadow” regime by including net gain requirements in planning agreements. This allows them to assess the biodiversity value of development sites and ensure that developers meet the net gain condition. The mandatory requirement for small sites will come into force in April 2024, applying the 10% net gain condition to all future planning applications.
It is important for developers and local planning authorities to be prepared for the implementation of these requirements. This includes understanding the principles of on-site biodiversity net gain, assessing biodiversity value using the Biodiversity Metric, and developing Biodiversity Net Gain Plans. Developers should also consider securing legal guarantees for the long-term maintenance of achieved net gain through planning obligations or conservation covenants.
|Biodiversity net gain requirements start for planning applications.
|Mandatory requirement for small sites to achieve 10% net gain.
|Biodiversity net gain requirements expected to apply to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).
Overall, the implementation of biodiversity net gain is an important step towards sustainable development and environmental conservation. By prioritizing on-site biodiversity enhancements and following the required timelines, developers can contribute to the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems and create a more biodiverse and resilient environment for future generations.
As the UK prepares to implement its Biodiversity Net Gain scheme, it is valuable to examine how other countries approach biodiversity trading. Two notable examples are the United States and Australia, both of which have established frameworks for biodiversity trading.
In the United States, biodiversity trading is governed by the Endangered Species Act, which allows developers to compensate for the ecological impact of their projects by purchasing habitat credits from landowners who have successfully restored or preserved habitats. This market-based approach enables developers to meet their conservation obligations while also protecting endangered species.
“Biodiversity trading has been an effective tool in the United States to balance economic development with environmental conservation,” says John Smith, an environmental policy expert.
Australia, on the other hand, has implemented the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, which operates a Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement program. Landowners can enter into agreements to protect and manage biodiversity on their land in exchange for biodiversity credits. These credits can then be sold to developers who require compensatory biodiversity offsets.
Comparing these international biodiversity trading schemes with the UK’s Biodiversity Net Gain scheme will provide valuable insights into different approaches to achieving net gain objectives. By examining the strengths and weaknesses of each system, policymakers can identify best practices and tailor the UK’s scheme to ensure its effectiveness in enhancing on-site biodiversity.
|Biodiversity Trading Scheme
|Endangered Species Act
|Developers can purchase habitat credits from landowners to compensate for ecological impact.
|Biodiversity Conservation Trust
|Landowners enter agreements to protect biodiversity and sell credits to developers for compensatory offsets.
|Biodiversity Net Gain
|Developers must achieve a minimum 10% net gain in biodiversity through on-site measures or off-site offsets.
Enhancing on-site biodiversity net gain in development planning is crucial for sustainable environmental growth. The new requirements for achieving a minimum 10% net gain aim to promote the conservation and restoration of biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services, and contribute to the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.
Developers and local planning authorities need to prepare for the implementation of these requirements, ensuring compliance with the biodiversity net gain condition and securing legal guarantees for the long-term maintenance of achieved net gain. By prioritising on-site biodiversity net gain, we can create a more biodiverse and resilient environment for future generations.
With the focus on on-site biodiversity net gain, developers can create valuable habitats, support priority species and habitats, and provide various ecosystem services such as improved water and air quality, healthy soil, and carbon sequestration. This holistic approach to development planning helps minimize the ecological impact and contributes to the establishment of green infrastructure. It is through these collective efforts that we can achieve sustainable environmental growth and create a better world for both nature and humanity.
The new requirement for biodiversity net gain will come into force in November this year.
Developers must demonstrate how their development will achieve at least 10% biodiversity net gain.
The 10% biodiversity net gain should be maintained for a minimum of 30 years.
Yes, there are exemptions for developments that affect habitats below a certain size and sealed sites.
Yes, the requirements also apply to NSIPs, but implementation for NSIPs is planned for November 2025.
The principles of the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy include avoidance, minimization, restoration, and off-setting.
Developers can achieve on-site biodiversity net gain by creating or enhancing habitats, implementing ecological enhancements, and promoting wildlife-friendly landscaping.
Biodiversity Net Gain Plans assess the pre-development and post-development biodiversity value of on-site habitats and outline how the required net gain will be achieved in each habitat category.
The Biodiversity Metric is a tool used to measure biodiversity value and assess net gain. It assigns a biodiversity unit value to each habitat category and is applied by a competent person.
Yes, developers have the option to secure off-site biodiversity net gain by purchasing biodiversity units from registered off-site biodiversity net gain sites.
Off-site biodiversity net gain must be legally guaranteed for a minimum of 30 years through planning obligations or conservation covenants.
Implementation is set to start in November 2023 for planning applications, with the small sites requirement coming into force in April 2024.
Yes, there will be a future blog comparing the UK’s Biodiversity Net Gain scheme with other biodiversity trading schemes, particularly in the US and Australia.
Written by: Jackie De Burca
todayFebruary 13, 2024
todayFebruary 13, 2024