Defra launches call for evidence on 'biodiversity net-gain' developments
The Government is consulting on whether property developers should be required to deliver a "biodiversity net-gain" when building new housing or commercial projects.
The proposals would ensure that wildlife is enhanced and left in a “measurably better state” than they were pre-development.
The 10-week consultation will seek views on proposed new rules for developers to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans. Developers would then need to demonstrate how they are improving diversity – such as through the creation of green doors, tree planting or forming local nature spaces.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high quality homes.
“Mandating biodiversity net gain puts the environment at the heart of planning and development. This will not only create better places for people to live and work, but ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”
Under the plans, developers would need to pay a levy for habitat creation or improvement elsewhere in circumstances where onsite improvements are not possible. The consultation also considers whether small and brownfield sites should be exempt from the rules.
Some developers already follow a biodiversity net-gain approach voluntarily. Among these developers includes Berkeley Group, which 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.
Balfour Beatty has led the way in this area by creating a set of good practice principles to deliver net-gains in biodiversity. Commenting on the consultation launch, Balfour Beatty’s biodiversity technical specialist Dr Julia Baker said the company “strongly supports” the Government’s proposals.
“Early planning allows for Biodiversity Net Gain measures to be integrated into the design, programme and budget of schemes, reducing the cost and ultimately generating long-term benefits for nature and society,” Baker said.
The consultation follows the launch of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework in July which outlined the need to ensure wildlife thrives at the same time as addressing the need for new homes. The Government has a vision to deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.