The commitment of the Government to mandate biodiversity net gain in England through the Environment Bill, and the revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2018 to put more emphasis on net gain are both likely to drive a requirement for higher resolution habitat data to be routinely collected for development projects.
Habitat classification needs to be robust in order to ensure that biodiversity metrics critical to calculating net gain can be accurately applied and their outcomes withstand scrutiny by nature conservation consultees and third parties. The UK Habitat Classification is a potentially important tool in de-risking planning applications, as it provides a more robust outcome than Phase 1 habitat survey.
It is likely that delivery of biodiversity net gain will be made mandatory in England, meaning that developments will need to use a metric to measure the extent of net gain required. It is not yet certain, however, how biodiversity net gain will be delivered. Given the need to provide additional land, the use of conservation covenants may become key to the delivery mechanism. Developers need to understand and contribute to developing this mechanism in order to achieve a practical and sustainable outcome.
BSG Ecology is delighted to be able to offer support to clients who are looking to undertake BREEAM Ecology assessments using the New Construction 2018 Guidance. Although the 2018 guidance has taken some time to filter into common usage (as many well established projects have been able to work to 2014 guidance), we have now had the opportunity to apply the 2018 Land Use and Ecology criteria to a number of projects in both England and Wales.
This article on biodiversity and the new NPPF summarises what the guidance has to say about sustainable development and biodiversity net gain. We also look at whether we are now clearer about how net gain is to be measured, and whether we are likely to see more consistency in its application by local planning authorities and decision taking.
As reported by the BBC on 7 November 2016, a Government review of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) estate has concluded that ninety-one sites covering an area of approximately 32,500 acres will be released. This will result in running cost savings for the MoD, and free up land that has the potential to deliver up to 55,000 new homes.
BSG Ecology recently attended two events in London focussing on biodiversity, planning and the environment. There are many changes taking place in this area of our work and these events proved useful in keeping us up to date on current thinking and practice and on potential future changes to how biodiversity is addressed through the planning system.
The benefits of and requirement for enhanced sustainability within developments is now firmly embedded in local and national planning policy in Scotland. Whilst the provision of ‘Blue-Green Infrastructure¹ can be viewed as a hindrance, as it takes up land with a commercial value, it should also be viewed as an opportunity, potentially adding value to the wider development.
On 17 March 2016, Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, will host an event organised by the “Living Cities Consortium” directed at major stakeholders involved in house building, construction, public realm improvements and delivery of new development across the public, private, voluntary and social enterprise sectors. The purpose of this event is to highlight the range of opportunities that Blue-Green Infrastructure can provide.
Dr Peter Shepherd will be appearing on Tuesday 19th January 2016 as an expert panel member at a seminar organised by the Environmental Research Doctoral Training Partnership at the University of Oxford.
This is the first in the Grand Challenges Seminar Series, organised by a group of interdisciplinary PhD students at the University of Oxford, which is intended to “provide a forum to hear from experts and discuss the pressing issues and questions surrounding our environment”.
Over the last few years BSG Ecology has been working with Andrew Cameron under a partnership called Crex, to help develop and implement the biodiversity element of the John Lewis Partnership Responsible Development Framework. One of the key commitments to biodiversity within the Framework is to achieve no net loss of biodiversity from the Partnership Estate by 2020. One of the first new stores where this biodiversity commitment is being applied is at Chipping Sodbury, in Gloucestershire.
Dr Peter Shepherd will be giving a short presentation to the CIRIA organised event titled “Biodiversity site tour – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park” on the 11th of September. The aim of the event is to consider the success of current maintenance and monitoring of on-site biodiversity initiatives in order to ensure long term biodiversity benefits. This is part of the on-going training and CPD events programme organised by CIRIA .
Defra confirmed in July 2014 correspondence with BSG Ecology that, ‘there are no plans at this stage to announce a way forward on biodiversity offsetting’. We enquired about the status of offsetting further to the Green Paper that was out for consultation in 2013, and the subsequent completion of the six biodiversity offsetting pilot projects in April 2014. Defra also confirmed in their letter that ‘They [the offsetting pilot projects] will require several months of analysis before they can fully inform our thinking. The final report of the results of the pilot offset projects is not currently available; however we are committed to publishing it.’
Defra is currently analysing the consultation responses received on the Defra green paper entitled Biodiversity Offsetting in England. The paper was published in September 2013 and the consultation period ended on 7 November 2013. It is understood that there is general support across all the main political parties to implement a biodiversity offsetting system in some form. Biodiversity offsetting is already being ‘used’ in different ways in development projects, not least within the Defra Trial areas. As such professional ecologists and other professional disciplines, in particular planners and developers, need to be up to speed with the principles, the application of the system as it currently is being implemented, and how it might evolve.