The UK government said nature-positive developments were moving a step closer on 27 July as it announced additional government support to enable the rollout of Biodiversity Net Gain.
Many housing developers are already successfully operating Biodiversity Net Gain recognising the benefits for people and nature, said Defra. From later this year, it will be mandatory: All major developments will be required to deliver a 10% benefit for nature.
Biodiversity Net Gain was introduced through the Environment Act and is said to be a key part of the government’s commitment to halt species decline by 2030. “By mandating the creation of new habitat and green spaces when building new housing, commercial or infrastructure developments, we will be able deliver the beautiful homes that the country’s needs – benefitting people and nature.”
To help the roll out, over £9 million of funding was seemingly committed (on 27 July) to help local authorities recruit additional ecologists and specialists. This will help local authorities better safeguard and enhance habitats during the development process.
Trudy Harrison Nature Minister said: “Biodiversity net gain will bring nature closer to where people live, creating greener and more beautiful communities. Today’s funding and guidance is the next step towards delivering this important part of our Environment Act, which will come into force later this year. This will support green jobs across the country and unlock further investment in nature’s recovery.”
From 27 July, relevant organisations were being encouraged to apply for ‘responsible body status’ to allow them to enter into conservation covenant agreements with landowners.
Conservation covenants are a new type of legal agreement which are intended to help secure the conservation of natural and heritage features of the UK’s landscape, including but not limited to the delivery of offsite Biodiversity Net Gain. To take part organisations will need to check they are eligible on the published criteria and apply to Defra for recognition. Covenants will be entirely voluntary agreements proposed by willing landowners.
Rob Perrins, Chief Executive, Berkeley Group, said: “Biodiversity net gain will be an important step forward for our industry, ensuring new developments support nature’s recovery and create the healthy and sustainable places local communities need. Putting this into practice on 54 sites has been a hugely positive experience for Berkeley Group and we know that the benefits far outweighed the challenges involved.
“Today’s announcement will provide greater certainty ahead of the go live date in November and we will continue to work in partnership with Defra, Natural England and our local authorities to make biodiversity net gain a success.”
Biodiversity Net Gain will exclusively apply to new applications for planning permission with the exact date to be confirmed in due course.