What is Biodiversity Net Gain?
Biodiversity Net Gain is development that leaves the natural environment in a better state than before.
The variety of species and the richness of habitats around us benefit people and the economy, by contributing to healthy ecosystem services. However, the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, with 56% of our species in decline. The mandating of Biodiversity Net Gain aims to secure a better future for wildlife, and the services with which it provides us.
What does it mean for developers?
From 1st February 2020, Cornwall Council will be applying a 10% net gain requirement to all major planning applications. National legislation requiring net gain is likely to be implemented later in 2020 through the Environment Bill.
Biodiversity Net Gain will require developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced. It requires a demonstrable increase in habitat value, compared to the pre-development baseline.
Cornwall Council states that all major planning application submissions will need to demonstrate:
- The Mitigation Hierarchy has been followed (including proposals for any necessary compensation)
- That the proposal will provide a minimum 10% net gain increase in biodiversity
- How the proposal will integrate into any wider green infrastructure network.
All major applications will be required to submit a biodiversity calculation as part of the standard information required for those applications. This will need to use the DEFRA 2.0 biodiversity metric.
If Biodiversity Net Gain cannot be delivered solely within the proposed development site, then off-site habitat creation or enhancement may be used to provide the Net Gain. Off-site creation and enhancement will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
By measuring the value of existing habitats in Biodiversity Units the Net Gain approach encourages habitats of high biodiversity value to be retained and enhanced. This approach will also be more economical, given the difficulty and cost in compensating for high value habitats.
There will be a requirement for developers (or subsequent owner/ occupiers, if applicable) to commit to maintaining and monitoring the Biodiversity Net Gain for 30 years from the commencement date of the proposal.
Does my development require a Biodiversity Net Gain Assessment?
Yes, if it meets the criteria of a major development. Minor developments do not currently need an assessment. However, Cornwall Council will be publishing further information on the net gain requirements for minor developments later in 2020.
There are also some exceptions, namely Permitted Development, Householder Development or Change of Use applications.
Biodiversity Net Gain Measurement and Assessors
The change in biodiversity value is measured using a metric based on habitat type, condition and area. It compares the pre-construction to the post-construction status of the site.
You will need a suitably qualified ecologist to complete the DEFRA 2.0 biodiversity metric calculations. They will also liaise with you throughout the design process, to help guide project design. In addition to the metric, your ecologists will need to provide an accompanying commentary, which will demonstrate that Biodiversity Net Gain is predicted to be achieved as part of your project.
CEC’s team of CIEEM registered ecologists can undertake Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments. Call us on 01872 245510.
How can we achieve Biodiversity Net Gain on a development?
Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain will very much depend on making the most of the existing onsite resources and integrating the development with its surroundings and the wider landscape – specialisms delivered by landscape architects and ecologists. An integrated design approach, which ultimately creates places where people and nature can co-exist should be followed.
The design team will need to work together with their ecologists and landscape architects in order to maximise retention of high value habitats in good condition on development sites. They will also need to develop proposals for the creation or enhancement of habitats as part of the proposed development. These can include trees, hedges, ponds, wildflower meadows and other features.
Landscape architects are trained to look at sites holistically, working with other disciplines including architects, engineers and planning consultants to achieve integration of the natural environment, whilst also delivering the client’s objectives of an attractive development yielding profits. Ecologists will ensure that the proposed green and blue infrastructure maximises opportunities for biodiversity, as well as creating connectivity between habitats.
Specifically in relation to Cornwall, landscape architects will also be able to advise on how the proposal will integrate into any wider green infrastructure network which is a planning requirement.
CEC’s team of ecologists and landscape architects provide an integrated, pragmatic approach to Biodiversity Net Gain. Call us on 01872 245510 and speak to Jenny Stuart, Principal Ecologist for further information and a free quote. We will be happy to discuss how Biodiversity Net Gain can work in relation to your project.