BSG Ecology, Defra and LDA Design collaborate to share Biodiversity Net Gain knowledge

BSG Ecology, Defra and LDA Design collaborate to share Biodiversity Net Gain knowledge

On 4 April 2019 BSG Ecology, DEFRA and LDA Design collaborated to deliver a breakfast seminar on biodiversity net gain. The seminar brought together attendees from local planning authorities and Homes England, with those from the higher education, minerals and house building sectors.

Biodiversity Net Gain, the first element of Environmental Net gain to be taken forward, is now required by Government under the National Planning Policy Framework, and is a key principle of the 25 year Environment Plan with regard to housing and infrastructure. Developers and planning consultants that fail to understand net gain policy, including its implications for critical elements of the development planning process, such as land deals, Environmental Impact Assessment and long term aftercare commitments, risk incurring significant unforeseen costs and delays.  The seminar therefore aimed to share knowledge of this new approach to shaping future growth, with a view to benefiting business, the economy and biodiversity.

BSG Ecology’s presentation was delivered by Dr. Peter Shepherd. Peter drew on our experience to emphasise the need to consider net gain at an early stage. This early consideration also allows the value and functionality of green infrastructure to be maximized within development design.

Peter’s talk complemented presentations from Marie Southgate (of Defra) and Frazer Osment (of LDA Design).  Marie’s talk covered the Government’s approach to net gain, picking out the commitment by Government to make net gain for biodiversity mandatory through the Environment Bill and going on to set out in broad terms the Government’s aim of accounting for broader natural capital net gains. Frazer then spoke about the potential value of net gain as a mechanism for delivering differential place making with specific benefits to health, wellbeing and the environment.

A lively and productive Q&A session followed. Key aspects of the discussion included:

  • The importance of an appropriately handled transition period to avoid unexpected costs for developments already being progressed, the need for which was recognized by DEFRA.
  • The vital role of the management of land outside of development (for example agriculture) to materially deliver net gain in the UK.
  • The balance between achieving net gain delivery on a landscape scale and not prejudicing local projects.
  • The role of DEFRA led Natural Capital Plans for specific areas such as the Oxford Cambridge Arc.

The seminar was very well received. Peter Traves, EIA co-ordinator for Savills said, “it was an effective seminar providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience”. Other feedback was on the balance of speakers, with Andy Duncan, Principal Landscape Manager for Hanson Quarry Products, noting that it was “really useful to hear from speakers from three different organisations” and Christopher Hawkins of the University of Oxford indicating that the presence of a DEFRA representative alongside BSG and LDA was particularly useful.

If you would have any queries or concerns with regard to biodiversity net gain, please contact one of our offices.

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Top Image: Left to right – Dr Peter Shepherd (BSG Ecology), Marie Southgate (Defra), Frazer Osment (LDA Design).

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