Ecology & Planning

Following on from our recent article about the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre regeneration proposals in Nottingham city centre by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Dr Peter Shepherd and Kirsty Kirkham reflect on a Study Visit of nature reserves in the City of Nottingham they undertook in summer 2019 and review the lessons learned about incorporating biodiversity into urban regeneration.
The British Standards Institute (BSI) has launched a public consultation on the draft British Standard - BS 8683 Process for designing and implementing Biodiversity Net Gain – Specification. The main purpose of BS 8683 is to set out the requirements for the biodiversity net gain assessment process for all developments across the UK.
BSG Ecology Director Peter Shepherd was recently invited for a second time to address the European Criminal Law Association – this time on the subject of Protecting the Environment after Brexit. The nature of the subject matter obviously requires a degree of ‘crystal ball gazing,’ so the talk started with what we know; among a series of depressing statistics, the State of Nature Report 2019 highlighted declines in 41 % of UK species, identified that 15 % are threatened with extinction, that we have lost 133 species entirely since 1970 and that the rate of biodiversity loss in the UK has been greater than the global average. The report is one of many sources that identify how critical it is that we take action to reverse biodiversity declines.
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.
Since the Government announced plans for new developments to deliver Biodiversity Net Gain on a mandatory basis in England, many local planning authorities have begun the process of incorporating net gain policies into their Local Plans. It is crucial that developers, planning consultants and ecological consultants understand these policies if successful projects are to be delivered. BSG Ecology has therefore developed a policy tracker for England to identify where Local Plan biodiversity net gain policies exist, where they are in preparation, and the Local Plan review stage authorities have reached.