Biodiversity Net Gain – What you need to know

9th November 2021 saw the Environment Act 2021 pass into UK law. This ambitious act seeks to clean up air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste and make better use of resources. As part of this new legislation, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) has been included as an approach to development that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than before.

With specific regards to BNG, this will see the use of metrics (most frequently the Defra Biodiversity Metric 3.1) to measure and compare baseline habitat condition against the habitats proposed within a scheme and their long-term management aspirations. Following the Environment Act gaining Royal Assent all new development proposals will be required to demonstrate a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% using a metric. While we eagerly await secondary legislation that will mandate this element (widely thought to be forthcoming before November 2023), this is already having a significant impact on the role our ecologists play at all stages of scheme design and implementation, which will require design teams to work much more closely alongside ecologists when designing Green Infrastructure and management proposals.

At FPCR, we have been engaging in the concept and practical applications of Biodiversity Net Gain at an early stage, starting with a wealth of experience working in Warwickshire to deliver schemes alongside Warks’ successful biodiversity offsetting pilot scheme. Our ecologists have played a key role in developing Defra’s Biodiversity Metric 2.0 and the latest 3.0/3.1 metric. We have since delivered contracts with Natural England to create the Small Sites Metric and the 3.1 Metric GIS template.

Sam Arthur, one of FPCR’s Associate ecologists, has been heavily involved in the development of BNG since the initial Defra pilot in 2012. Sam has in-depth knowledge of the principles of BNG and extensive experience in the application of all widely used biodiversity metrics. In recognition of his early involvement and the wealth of experience he has in BNG, Sam holds a position on the Natural England Metric Sounding Board. Sam now leads a team of Biodiversity Net Gain Specialists, who have a vast range of experience in completing metric assessments for development schemes, creating BNG management plans and seeking solutions for our clients. Furthermore, we have a long history of our Landscape and Ecology teams working together closely to carefully consider the requirement of both disciplines and this has carried through to our preparations for mandatory BNG. Consequently, our Landscape Architects have an in-depth understanding of how BNG will affect their work.

As one of the leading consultancies in the advancement and delivery of BNG, FPCR are currently working with a broad range of landowners, Local Authorities and government bodies to establish banks of biodiversity units (‘BioBanks’) to facilitate the planning of investment ready offsite habitats in compensation for development impacts. Further to this FPCR currently have a pipeline of tens of thousands of hectares of land with Local Planning Authority coverage of approximately 1/3 of land in England. It is our ambition to have coverage in all local authorities in the short to medium term while working in partnership with agents and landowners directly. As we continuously strive to seek innovative solutions, we have taken a lead on the concept of Biodiversity banking, where our team currently represent two of the eight projects within the Natural England Biodiversity Credits Scheme – Extended Pilot. In addition to these projects FPCR has worked with the Alscot Estate to establish one of England’s first private biodiversity unit banks, this project has the approval of Warwickshire County Council and is now selling units on the open market.

How Can FPCR Help You?

Thanks to our early engagement with BNG, our team is well prepared to advise on this emerging initiative and to support our clients in preparing for, and delivering on, mandatory BNG. As an example of the range of services we can offer in this area, we can:

  • Carry out all aspects of Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments
  • Carry out pre-purchase assessments to give insight into the developable area that will allow the delivery of net gain
  • Design landscape schemes to maximise biodiversity gain
  • Assess impact assessments carried out by 3rd parties
  • Provide advice on Biobanking including sourcing suitable land, liaising with/advising landowners, habitat assessments, habitat creation and enhancement schemes to maximise unit delivery, producing management plans and advising on the establishment of legal agreements for deliver.
  • Deliver seminars to clients informing on BNG, BioBanking and how to avoid costly complications
  • Provide high level advice on how to procced with assessments
  • Liaise with LPA ecologist to agree principles