Integrate, don’t offset – Biodiversity net gain from the ground up

Philip Hammond announced in last month’s Spring Statement that the forthcoming Environmental Bill will “mandate biodiversity net gain for development in England… ensuring that the delivery of much needed infrastructure and housing is not at the expense of vital biodiversity.”

Following this, a recent CIEEM conference put biodiversity net gain at the top of the agenda. In attendance were BMD biodiversity experts Helen Miller and James Patmore. Here, they comment on the legislative changes and what developers stand to gain moving forward:

Helen Miller, Ecology Technical Director at BMD, commented:

“Biodiversity net gain has always been at the heart of our work!

“The Spring Statement is the welcome culmination of a shifting mind-set at Government level over the past few years. It builds on the work of recently updated National Planning Policy Framework and the 25-year Environmental Plan in recognising and honouring the economic and social benefits of a biodiverse environment. Yet, it doesn’t just stop at environmental benefits, with the CIEEM conference highlighting that biodiversity net gain at planning stages is likely to translate into long-term commercial benefits from natural capital assets down the line. ”

“BMD’s own experience shows that to maximise the potential of this natural capital, collaboration is key: not only must the wider development team be on board from the start, but all disciplines, from ecologists to engineers, master planners to architects, land managers to landscape architects, must work together to preserve and boost environmental assets.”

James Patmore, Director of Ecology at BMD, added:

“Last month’s well-attended CIEEM conference ‘Biodiversity Net Gain From Policy to Practice: A Transformative Tool for Tackling Biodiversity Loss?’ covered a wide range of issues relevant to biodiversity net gain, including using habitat as a measure and the potential shortfalls of the metric approach.”

“Although biodiversity net gain will always face these challenges, its inclusion in the Spring Statement should inspire developers to consider habitat and species requirements in initial design planning – integrating biodiversity into plans from the outset and engaging with ecologists earlier on in the process.”

“New legislation will make effective biodiversity strategy a commercial necessity for businesses, rather than just a nice to have. As a result, Hammond’s statement is an encouraging step towards putting the environment at the centre of property decision-making.”