Enhancing the value of new sites for wildlife is an increasingly important element of any developer’s thought process. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is set to become a legal requirement through the Environment Bill (which is due to be passed this autumn) and required to be evidenced using Natural England’s recently released BNG Metric 3.0.
Here is a top-level guide to explain the importance of this – and how Nicholas Pearson Associates can seamlessly apply BNG principles to achieve optimum results for you.
How is BNG changing?
The Environment Bill, which makes provision about targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment, is currently passing through the Houses of Parliament. While many planning policies already call for developers to deliver measurable net gains in biodiversity, the new Bill will make this the law. Once the bill is passed it will become a legal requirement for all developments to achieve a 10% BNG, as evidenced by a Natural England Metric.
“The Bill could become law in Autumn 2021 with a 2-year transition period before it becomes mandatory,” says Lead Ecologist David Harvey . “While that might seem a long way off, we’re all aware how long it can take schemes to come through the system – especially larger ones. When the Bill kicks in, if you haven’t prepared properly, it may unravel your design work, meaning you need to make big changes. Quite significant ones, perhaps. So it pays to think ahead.”
What will the new requirement mean to you?
The BNG process needs reliable and accurate habitat survey data to assess the baseline biodiversity value of each site, so the gains achieved through proposals can be measured using the Natural England biodiversity metric calculation tool 3.0.
You will need to know:
- The types of habitat – on-site and off-site
- The size of each habitat parcel in hectares – or kilometres if it is a linear feature (rivers and streams, hedgerows etc)
- The condition of each habitat parcel
- Whether the sites are in locations identified as local nature priorities
The metric gives each of these baseline measurements a score. This will be compared to your proposed Green Infrastructure scheme scores, which will need to achieve at least 10% BNG for planning approval.
Achieving a net gain legacy
The proposed habitats that help achieve 10% BNG need to be maintained and monitored for a minimum of 30 years, so it’s important to understand how this will be done and that the proposed habitats and their uses are appropriate for the Site in the long term. Joined up thinking is needed to ensure Green Infrastructure proposed meets the requirement for people, protected species and the good practice principals that accompany BNG – it’s not just about filling in a spreadsheet!
Of course, there are several ways to improve BNG, both on and offsite. But as Managing Director Simon Kale points out:
“The important thing for our clients is to know what opportunities there are for BNG so that they can make the right choices for their project. The Environmental Design approach we bring will help to define this for each site.”
Three steps to a seamless project with Nicholas Pearson Associates
1. Engage us early so we can help you make the right decisions at the right time. We can alert you to potential problems and plan appropriate strategies and solutions;
2. Talk to us about achieving the best diversity for your site. Not all sites or development types are the same and we can help you understand what habitats could work best for each location;
3. Use our many years of experience in Environmental Design legacy. We know how to deliver integrated landscape and ecology design solutions that are sustainable for the long term, including with the use of Natural England metric calculators.
“It’s always been important for ecologists and landscape architects to work well together to deliver good results,” says David Harvey. “But this upcoming requirement for quantifiable outcomes is really taking it to the next level of collaboration.”