Biodiversity Net Gain: Developing a future for habitats and homes

Biodiversity Net Gain was introduced through the world-leading Environment Act and will be fundamental in helping the country meet targets to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.

October 12, 2023

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

At its core, BNG is about contributing to the recovery of nature during the development process. It mandates that the habitat for wildlife post-development must be in a better state than it was before the development began.

Starting from January 2024, as per the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, BNG will be mandatory for most developments, with small sites coming under its umbrella from April 2024. 

The aim? A legally binding commitment to deliver a 10% positive impact on local environments. This can be achieved through creating new habitats, green spaces, or any means that boost the local ecology. 

Guidelines for Developers

The goal is to avoid habitat loss. However, if that's not feasible, developers must either:

Create habitat on-site: This refers to the actual land earmarked for development.

Go off-site: Either on a different land owned by the developer or by purchasing units from a land manager.

Buy statutory credits from the government: This is the last resort, where the government then invests in habitat creation elsewhere in England.

It's crucial to involve an ecologist and obtain local planning authority's approval before commencement.

Diving Deeper: What is a Biodiversity Metric?

Metrics like Defra’s Biodiversity Metric 3.1 are tools to measure biodiversity changes. They provide a 'unit value' for every habitat on a site based on its biodiversity value. Factors like habitat size, distinctiveness, rarity, strategic significance, condition, connectivity, and local importance are considered.

At the moment we can only speculate as to what this might look like. But, by the end of November 2023 we should have:

  • The statutory biodiversity metric, crucial for gauging the correct biodiversity gain.
  • Draft biodiversity gain and Habitat Management & Monitoring Plan templates.
  • A package of BNG guidance elucidating roles and responsibilities for all involved parties.

How can BDN be achieved?

While we await the criteria from the Government, let’s take a look at some of the pioneering ways developers are currently working to improve environmental impact.

Habitat Creation:

  • Wetlands: Creating ponds, marshes, or swamps to support a diverse range of species.
  • Woodlands: Planting native trees and shrubs to establish new woodlands or expand existing ones.
  • Meadows: Sowing native wildflower seeds to create or restore grassland habitats.

Habitat Enhancement:

  • Native Planting: Introducing or increasing native plant species in an area to provide food and shelter for wildlife.
  • Habitat Piles: Creating log or rock piles to provide habitats for insects, reptiles, and small mammals.

Habitat Restoration:

  • Restoring habitats that have been degraded or previously destroyed, such as heathlands, peat bogs, or ancient woodlands.
  • Green Roofs and Walls: Introducing vegetation on building roofs or walls to provide habitat, combat heat islands, and improve air quality.

Habitat Connectivity:

  • Wildlife Corridors: Creating or preserving linear habitats like hedgerows or stream buffers that allow wildlife to move between larger habitats.
  • Eco-bridges or Wildlife Crossings: Structures that allow animals to safely cross roads or other barriers.

Biodiversity Net Gain is England's commitment to a brighter, greener future. It is a testament to the belief that nature and development can not only co-exist but can also mutually benefit from one another. As developers and landowners, embracing BNG is not just about compliance; it's about paving the way for sustainable growth and a lasting legacy.

October 17, 2023

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