wildflower meadow near housing to demonstrate biodiversity gain

Implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain is growing in relation to planning and development. But what exactly does it mean and what are the implications of Biodiversity Net Gain for projects?

The concept that development projects should benefit biodiversity is becoming widely accepted; this relates to increased awareness that nurturing and maintaining a healthy and sustainable natural environment is imperative for society’s wellbeing.

The recently updated National Planning Policy Framework (2019) [1], states that the planning system should, “identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity”. Indeed, local authorities are increasingly stipulating Biodiversity Net Gain as part of planning requirements. Furthermore, the future Environment Bill is expected to make Biodiversity Net Gain mandatory for certain developments.

What’s Biodiversity Net Gain all about?

“Biodiversity Net Gain is development that 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 in order to support their priorities for nature conservation” [2].

The above definition is taken from, ‘Biodiversity Net Gain: Good practice principles for development’ (CIEEM, CIRIA, IEMA, 2016). This document sought to provide clarity as to the underlying principles of Biodiversity Net Gain.

The quote emphasises the idea that Biodiversity Net Gain should be collaborative – a concept that is firmly engrained in the approach. In addition, gains should be of benefit within the locality of the project, as well as contributing to regional and national, targets and priorities.

The heart of Biodiversity Net Gain lies in the rigorous application of what is termed the ‘mitigation hierarchy’. This essentially means that rather than simply seeking to mitigate for and replace biodiversity that is lost to development, avoidance and minimisation of negative impacts and effects is sought from the off. Biodiversity Net Gain should also seek to go beyond ‘existing obligations’.

Recent developments in Biodiversity Net Gain

Following on from the good practice principles, the recently published, ‘Biodiversity Net Gain: Good practice principles for development. A practical guide’[3], (CIRIA, CIEEM, IEMA, 2019), offers practical advice on how to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain.

Addressing risk and uncertainties with regards to Net Gain, and making a measurable long-term contribution are important parts of the framework. This is achieved partly through the use of biodiversity metrics, whereby; the type(s) and amount(s) of gain are determined through comparisons between the baseline conditions of a site (using calculations based on survey data) and future predictions.

What does this mean for your project?

As with most things ecological, Biodiversity Net Gain considerations should be integral to a project from the early stages. The positive business case for achieving Biodiversity Net Gain is clearly defined in the recent practical guide, under categories of: competitive advantages, financial-value benefits and efficiencies; such as potential work-winning advantages, consent approvals, stakeholder relationships, and risk management benefits.

For further help and advice regarding Biodiversity Net Gain in relation to your project, get in touch with our ecologists.

Note:
[1] Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2019. National Planning Policy Framework.

[2] CIRIA, CIEEM, IEMA, 2016. Biodiversity Net Gain: Good practice principles for development.

[3] CIRIA, CIEEM, IEMA, 2019. Biodiversity Net Gain: Good practice principles for development. A practical guide.