"The Environment Bill includes measures to encourage the restoration of nature and respond to the alarming decline of biodiversity across the UK,” says Dr Joe Franklin, Associate Director and Biodiversity Programme Lead at WSP, who was involved with developing the case studies that form part of the BNG toolkit. “Many stakeholders, including local authorities and developers, will need to consider very carefully how factors such as mandatory biodiversity net gain, habitat banking and Local Nature Recovery Strategies relate to their existing and future plans." Biodiversity Metric 3.0 will be the only nationally accepted methodology that developers can use in the planning process.
While the new BNG requirements will allow developers to provide additional habitat after a project is completed, the calculation methodology gives higher precedence to habitat that is provided prior to completion to account for the delay in biodiversity provision.
“Incentivising developers to provide habitat in advance of project completion enables our clients to create ‘habitat banks’ and plan for the future” says Dr Franklin. “These ‘habitat banks’ will be registered with Natural England so that their long-term biodiversity gains can be monitored.”
The BNG methodology also incentivises developers to prioritise certain types of habitat that provide more biodiversity value while supporting the habitats and species affected by the development. The ecological benefits of species-rich meadows, for example, are given greater recognition in the metric calculation to reflect the biodiversity benefit that be achieved in the 30-year timeframe that the Environment Bill requires habitats be maintained after development.
By requiring development teams to consider the biodiversity impacts of their projects – and encouraging them to provide a net positive benefit to biodiversity within the wider community now and in the future – England is helping to reverse the biodiversity crisis, one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.
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