Built environment sector calls for biodiversity focus in upcoming Environment Bill

A group of UK built environment businesses have penned a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, calling on future legislation to boost economic growth through restorative planning that benefits the environment.

Built environment sector calls for biodiversity focus in upcoming Environment Bill

A 10-week Defra consultation exploring whether property developers should be required to deliver a "biodiversity net-gain" will close shortly

Convened by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and Greener UK, 23 organisations have called for the upcoming Environment Bill to include policies on environmental restoration and regeneration that focuses on biodiversity, water and air quality. The draft bill was launched in December 2018.

“For too long nature has been struggling, which ultimately undermines our economy, and poses a serious threat to our health and wellbeing,” the letter states. “The UK is ranked 189th out of 218 countries for nature depletion, posing a major challenge that requires a strong response.”

The letter notes that Government plans to build 300,000 homes annually throughout the 2020s should be used as an opportunity to promote the protection and enhancement of natural resources, while cutting down on extractive models and waste.

The companies to sign the letter are: Argent (Property Development) Services, Atelier Ten, BAM Construct UK, BAM Nuttall, Barratt Developments, Bennetts Associates, Berkeley Group, BRE, British Land, Clarion Housing Group, Colliers International, GS8, Hoare Lea, Interface, JLL, Kingspan Insulation, Lendlease, Linkcity, Redrow, Telford Homes, William Hare, Willmott Dixon and WSP.

Prosperous economy

Focus on biodiversity and natural capital is rising up the agenda for built environment firms. Almost half (44%) of UKGBC gold leaf members have created a biodiversity strategy. The timing of the discussion is built on a 10-week Defra consultation exploring whether property developers should be required to deliver a “biodiversity net-gain” when building new housing or commercial projects.

Some developers already follow a biodiversity net-gain approach voluntarily. Berkeley Group, for example, is currently working with London Wildlife Trust to build a new 4,800 home village development in East London that contains 20 hectares of parkland.

Elsewhere, Warwickshire County Council has trialled a system to ensure all developments lead to no net-loss of biodiversity, which each project preparing a Biodiversity Impact Assessment prior to building.

“This letter from a prominent group of built environment businesses calls on the Chancellor to recognise that the Environment Bill is instrumental in ensuring a healthy prosperous economy in future. Our members stand ready to deliver the new homes and places that the country needs in such a way that limits their adverse impact on the environment and begins to reverse the environmental decline evidenced by past trends,” UKGBC’s chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said.

“These businesses are showing leadership by calling for legally binding targets for the achievement of environmental objectives. This will give the construction and property sector the confidence and certainty we need to help drive nature’s recovery.”

The UKGBC’s head of business transformation Alastair Mant appeared on an edie webinar last week focusing on sustainability in the built environment sector. Alongside speakers from Mace Group, Reconomy and Willmott Dixon, Mant discussed how firm’s in the sector could embed sustainability cultures – and how they plan to take forward their agendas.

You can watch the webinar on demand here.

The Built environment at edie Live

Sustainability professionals from Wienerberger, Wilmott Dixon, Landsec and Canary Wharf Group are among the expert speakers confirmed for edie Live 2019 – the UK’s largest sustainability and energy exhibition this year, 21-22 May.

The two-day show – edie’s biggest event of the year – has become a highlight of the calendar for sustainability, energy and environment professionals looking for new ideas and solutions that will help them achieve a low-carbon, resource efficient and profitable future for their business.

Register for your free edie Live 2019 pass here.

Matt Mace

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