The New Biodiversity Net Gain Scheme Explained

In February 2023 the Government announced the launch of the new Biodiversity Net Gain scheme, which will provide a strategy to assess and record wildlife habitats on land that is due to be developed, and enhance this habitat, with the aim being to make new sites more biodiverse than they were before development.

The UK is in the bottom 10% globally for biodiversity, with only around half of its biodiversity left. This is well below the global average of 75%.

Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper, stated: “For decades Nature has been diminishing around us at an alarming rate, with England one of the most nature depleted countries on earth. We need significant, collaborative action to reverse this decline and put nature on the road to recovery.”

How will the Scheme Work?

Biodiversity Net Gain is a key part of the government’s commitment to halt species decline by 2030 and was introduced into legislation through the world-leading Environment Act.

The scheme will apply to new housing, infrastructure, and commercial developments of all sizes. Larger developments will be subject to the new rules from November 2023, and smaller developments will be included by April 2024, with the goal to make all new developments ‘nature positive’.

Under the scheme, developers will be required to demonstrate the ways in which they are replacing and improving biodiversity. It will require that any habitat within the boundary is replaced ‘like for like’ or ‘like for better’. Developers will be encouraged to undertake these improvements on-site, but improvements can be made on alternative sites if this is not possible.

Developers in England will be required to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain when building new housing, industrial or commercial developments, so that there is a positive benefit for nature.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey stated: “We will continue to support and work with developers and planning authorities ahead of the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain. We want to help them ensure the developments of the future enhance biodiversity by creating thriving places for plants and wildlife, as outlined under our pioneering Environmental Improvement Plan.”

At the heart of this scheme is a habitat-based approach to assessing existing habitats, called the biodiversity metric. This biodiversity accounting tool is based on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and will calculate how a development or change in land management will change the biodiversity value.

Habitat surveys and completion of the assessment will be undertaken by ecologists.

Impact on the Landscaping Industry

The new scheme will benefit every member of the landscape industry, including ecologists, designers, suppliers and contractors, due to its broad nature.

Legislation states that habitats created under the Biodiversity Net Gain scheme should be secured for a minimum of 30 years after the development is completed.

4th Corner have made biodiversity a priority in all of our planting and landscaping projects since 2012. We offer our clients simple and cost-effective ways to improve the biodiversity of their sites through our Biodiversity Packs.

We have developed our biodiversity packs to engage people with nature and enhance and protect our landscapes. We hope that these simple additions will help our Property Managers, CLOs and Resident Committees make the most of their gardens and grounds, for the benefit of residents and the native wildlife.

The government is due to publish more information in advance of the scheme’s launch in November 2023.

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