Collington Winter Environmental

Biodiversity Net Gain Wales: How we can assist

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Biodiversity net gain (BNG) represents a development approach where developers assess a project’s ecological impact, specifically concerning biodiversity. The primary goal is to ensure that, after the project’s completion, the local ecosystem is in a healthier condition compared to its state prior to development, benefiting both local people and future generations. This is achieved by preventing biodiversity loss and preserving natural habitats and ecological features.

The demand for BNG has increased due to research findings like the UK’s State of Nature Report, which highlighted a 19% decline in the abundance of studied species in the country. Consequently, Biodiversity Net Gain is now frequently required to inform planning applications, with the objective of demonstrating how the proposed development will tangibly enhance biodiversity.

With the passing of the Environment Bill, Wales is set to introduce mandatory biodiversity gain for developments through the forthcoming Environment Act in 2023. Any development failing to meet these requirements will face a halt. It is worth noting that BNG is already a requirement in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Under relevant national legislation, biodiversity net gain is soon to become compulsory in Wales. The Welsh Government is now urging developers to incorporate biodiversity net gain and nature recovery into their planning applications for permission to proceed with their projects.

Biodiversity net gain aims

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a UK policy designed to guarantee that emerging developments contribute positively to biodiversity. The primary objectives of implementing Biodiversity Net Gain in the UK include:

  • Enhancing biodiversity: BNG aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before development takes place. This is achieved by ensuring that the biodiversity value of a site after development is higher than it was before. In cases where a development affects biodiversity, developers must ensure the provision of additional suitable natural habitats and ecological features, surpassing the impacted area by at least 10% compared to the initial baseline.
  • No net loss: BNG aims to ensure that there is no net loss of biodiversity as a result of development activities. This means that any loss of biodiversity due to construction or other development activities should be compensated for elsewhere.
  • Improving ecosystem services: BNG seeks to enhance the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination, water purification, and climate regulation, which are crucial for human well-being.
  • Habitat creation and restoration: BNG encourages the creation and restoration of habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, grasslands, and other ecosystems that support a diverse range of species.
  • Connectivity and green infrastructure: BNG promotes the creation of green corridors and connectivity between habitats, allowing wildlife to move freely and ensuring genetic diversity within populations.
  • Sustainable development: Biodiversity Net Gain aims to integrate biodiversity conservation with economic development. It emphasises the importance of sustainable land use planning and construction practices.
  • Adaptive management: BNG promotes the concept of adaptive management, which involves monitoring the biodiversity outcomes of a development and making adjustments as needed to achieve the desired net gain.
  • Compliance with legal requirements: BNG aligns with existing legal requirements related to biodiversity conservation in the UK, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations. The Environment Act 2021 will make BNG a legal planning requirement from November 2023.
  • Public engagement and education: It encourages public engagement and education about biodiversity conservation, helping to raise awareness and foster a culture of environmental stewardship.
  • Long-term Sustainability: BNG aims for the long-term sustainability of biodiversity gains, ensuring that they are maintained and managed effectively over time.

Biodiversity net gain principles

There are ten crucial good practice principles of biodiversity net gain. These should help to achieve BNG if they are followed accordingly. The mandatory biodiversity net gain principles include the following:

  • Utilise the mitigation hierarchy to minimise the impact on biodiversity
  • Eliminate any negative impacts on biodiversity
  • Communicate each BNG outcome with complete transparency
  • Cover all areas of sustainability, including societal and economic factors
  • Involve any pre-development and post-development stakeholders in creating mandatory net gain solutions
  • Focus on producing long-term natural net benefit for biodiversity. This will ensure a development leaves biodiversity in a better state than it was before
  • Understand the variable factors and potential risks in order to achieve biodiversity and deliver net gain
  • Offer nature conservation that exceeds the stated BNG requirements
  • Determine a suitable method in order to secure measurable biodiversity net gains
  • Ensure the best possible results from biodiversity net gain

Biodiversity Metric

The biodiversity metric functions as a means to assess the potential impact of a development or changes in land management on the biodiversity value of a location. This encompasses actions such as building residences, creating forests, or nurturing wildflower meadows.

This metric enables you to:

  • Evaluate the biodiversity unit worth of a specific land area.
  • Provide a consistent means of showcasing biodiversity gains or losses.
  • Quantify and acknowledge direct effects on biodiversity.
  • Compare different proposals for a site, whether they involve on-site or off-site habitat creation or enhancement.

It facilitates the task of designing, strategising, and reaching well-informed choices regarding land management that give precedence to biodiversity. The metric calculates measurements in the form of ‘biodiversity units,’ and these measurements are derived by taking into account factors such as the size, quality, and position of habitats.

Our team of ecologists and landscape architects have helped numerous clients over the years. Our clients have ranged from minor developments to major applications. We have assisted with matters regarding policy guidance for biodiversity net gain in Wales.

If you would like to find out more about the services we provide, feel free to contact us using the details below.

Biodiversity Credits

Most local planning authorities in Wales will want developers to ensure that BNG is achieved on-site. In some circumstances, this cannot be achieved, and it is simply not possible. However, this does not mean that the local planning authorities will automatically refuse a planning application.

Instead, the local planning authority may grant planning consent if developers are able to deliver sufficient biodiversity net gain using offsite biodiversity habitat enhancement.

Developers may be given the option of purchasing biodiversity credits through funding schemes that will generate the equivalent number of units in other areas.

The biodiversity net gain credits purchased will then be invested into habitat creation and enhancement.

Natural England is currently supporting the design of the credits scheme by developing payment structures and a BNG credit investment pipeline to fund habitat provision.

How can we assist with biodiversity net gain in Wales?

Our biodiversity consultants have helped numerous clients over the years, including with policy guidance for biodiversity gain in Wales and relevant national legislation. Achieving net gain for biodiversity through development is something that we are qualified and experienced in, and we can offer advice on planning projects.

Please get in touch if you would like further information about Biodiversity Net Gain, Wales, and BNG action plans. We are happy to offer free CPD sessions on the Biodiversity Net Gain Principles and how we can help your schemes achieve this.

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