Biodiversity Net Gain: Implications for development

The principle of new development providing net environmental gain was central to the government’s 25-Year Plan to improve the environment, which was published in January 2018. The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) takes this principle forward; the stated requirement is that planning policies and decisions should not only minimise impacts on biodiversity but also provide net gain. The previous caveat of providing net gain only ‘where possible’ has been removed. Elsewhere in the Framework, there is reference to net gains being ‘measurable’, which sends a strong steer to LPAs that planning decisions should be informed by a fully quantified ‘biodiversity budget’. It is no coincidence that Defra is shortly to publish Version 2 of their Biodiversity Offsetting Metric, which provides a transparent system for quantifying biodiversity change through development.

EAD Ecology has extensive experience of using the Defra metric and other similar tools for quantifying biodiversity change. Our experience is that for typical residential or commercial developments, as well as onsite measures, habitat creation offsite is often required to demonstrate net gain. As EAD Ecology Director Matt Cowley explains “For greenfield sites in particular, habitat creation associated with multi-functional greenspace is rarely enough on its own to demonstrate biodiversity net gain. This means either loss of developable area or offsite measures. The scarcity of off-set providers means that securing habitat creation offsite can be challenging. It remains to be seen whether this change in policy will bring more off-set providers into the market”.

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