Nature to be restored, not depleted, under "world’s first" new mandatory ruling

22 February 2024 by Acre
blog author

​​Builders across England will be facing a new challenge from this month – to add to nature rather than damage it, during future major housing building projects.

The new ‘nature market’ ruling called Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), has come into force and will ensure any new developments will not be detrimental to nature.

The intention of Biodiversity Net Gain is to create more nature after a development than before. It requires developments to avoid harm to nature, but if unavoidable, developers must create new habitats or enhance existing ones either within the site itself or by investing in nature sites elsewhere. For example, if a new building project results in woodland loss, the building firm must recreate it to regenerate biodiversity and boost nature.

While it came into law on Feb 12 for larger sites, under the Town and Country Planning Act, smaller sites will be affected by the new biodiversity credit scheme from April 2.

Under the Environment Act, the ambitious move – claimed to be the world’s first – will see developers in the country delivering at least a 10 per cent increase in biodiversity, with the legal requirement forming part of the government’s plan to halt species decline by 2030.

The scheme will be supported through £10.6m funding to help local authorities recruit and expand ecologist teams, invest in green jobs and increase capacity to create habitats with an abundance of wildlife, to co-exist with developments.

Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, said: “Biodiversity Net Gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live.

“This government is going further and faster for nature, since 2010 we have restored an area for nature larger than the size of Dorset, banned micro plastics and set ambitious targets to halt biodiversity decline.

“This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”

Tony Juniper, Natural England Chair, said: “If we are to halt and reverse the decline of wildlife in line with our ambitious national targets then it will be vital to ensure that new habitats are created to compensate those being lost to developments.

“Biodiversity Net Gain is a key moment on our path to halting the decline of nature, enabling developers to make a positive contribution through creating new habitats, increasing access to green spaces, and building healthy and resilient places for people to live and work.

“Many developers are already using Biodiversity Net Gain in new developments and recognising the benefits for people and nature.”

David Mooney, CEO of London Wildlife Trust, said: “We need to take this opportunity and make sure Biodiversity Net Gain can help towards nature’s recovery.

“Central government, local authorities, developers, and nature charities like The Wildlife Trusts must work together to bring nature to our doorsteps and wildlife to our windows.” 

Developers such as Berkeley Group have already been using Biodiversity Net Gain during developments over the past few years.

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of Berkeley Group, said: “Biodiversity Net Gain is a positive step for the homebuilding industry and will bring nature back to our towns and cities. Putting this into practice on over 50 sites has been a hugely positive experience for Berkeley Group and these greener, wilder landscapes have huge benefits for the communities around them.

“The challenge now is to make sure that developers and planning authorities take a positive and collaborative approach to delivering Biodiversity Net Gain across the country. This is a big change for everyone involved and we need to work together to unlock the full benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.”

Ben Flint, Sector Director - UK Real Estate at Acre, said: “The built environment has been a major threat to biodiversity for many years and it’s imperative that innovations and solutions - such as Biodiversity Net Gain - rectify the negative impacts for future building projects.

“We need to protect nature, not destroy it, and if this latest initiative is proven to reboost nature and our precious ecosystems during the homebuilding process, then the results should speak for themselves.”


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