Biodiversity Net Gain

“Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development that leaves biodiversity in a better state than before. Where a development has an impact on biodiversity it encourages developers to provide an increase in appropriate natural habitat and ecological features over and above that being affected in such a way it is hoped that the current loss of biodiversity through development will be halted and ecological networks can be restored.”  CIEEM 2019

Why do you need to know about Net Gain? 

New homes and associated infrastructure required to tackle the UK’s housing crisis will inevitably impact on biodiversity. The Environment Act, which passed into UK law on 9th November 2021, will require most of this needed development to deliver a measurable biodiversity gain (‘net gain’) of 10%. The ‘biodiversity metric’ published by the government will have to be used to calculate biodiversity values. 

What does this mean for Developers? 

Following the Environment Act gaining Royal Assent, we are awaiting secondary legislation that will mandate this 10% gain requirement (widely thought to be forthcoming within the next two years). Once mandated, biodiversity net gain will form a mandatory part of the majority of terrestrial planning applications in England. 

In accordance with current guidance within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), there is now an increasing trend of Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) requesting that a quantifiable net gain for biodiversity is demonstrated prior to determining planning application. 

Key Points: 

  • Some schemes will be unable to deliver biodiversity net gain using typical scheme layouts and landscaping, and locally sourced offsite solutions for net gain will be required; 
  • Post construction Management and Monitoring Plans and planting schemes will need to be strictly adhered to for a 30-year period; 
  • Biodiverse places are generally greener places, therefore factoring in biodiversity requires early engagement with ecologists to ensure a holistic approach to environmental design; 
  • Flexibility will be required to design high quality green space – there is a financial incentive to do so; and 
  • All disciplines will need to work more closely with ecologists and landscape architects to deliver schemes that minimise impacts and maximise gains. 

Our Expertise – Why listen to us? 

Our team of over 70 ecologists, have 10 years of experience in undertaking assessments and have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry which is second to none. Our assessment team is led by Associate Ecologist Sam Arthur, who has been instrumental in the development of Biodiversity Net Gain over the last 10 years. In this time we have undertaken 100+ assessments and devised numerous complex strategies to aid our clients. In recognition of this Sam now holds a position on the Natural England Metric Sounding Board. As part of Sam’s role within this group he is working closely with Natural England to develop the tool for applying the principles of the metric. Our team of ecologists have played a key role in developing Defra’s Biodiversity Metric 2.0 and the latest 3.0/3.1 metrics. We have since delivered contracts with Natural England to create the Small Sites Metric and the 3.1 Metric GIS template. 

Our senior team also have proven expertise of providing detail evidence on matters relating to biodiversity net gain with a track record of success where such matters are tested – 

Our services 

Habitat Survey Work: we have a skilled team of Ecologists experienced in gathering all relevant habitat assessment data required to undertake Net Gain Assessments using all of the current metrics. 

Technical Expertise: our Ecologists are experienced in mapping habitats in Geographic Information System (GIS) formats enabling the accurate generation of net gain metric data. This data can be applied through any of the currently available calculators. 

Embedding Net Gain in Masterplans: our Ecologists routinely work within large project teams, and have a close relationship with FPCR’s in-house Landscape Architects. We are skilled in communication with other consultants, particularly with regard to the management and protection of key ecological features, appropriate habitat creation and targeted restoration within scheme designs. Adopting and implementing our recommendations brings schemes in line with the government’s sustainability agenda, improves chances of planning approval, creates sites which are of a high quality and have a positive effect on the surrounding environment.  The broad range of knowledge, understanding and adaptability within our team enables them to provide the necessary offsetting solutions within the project constraints. 

Biodiversity Unit Sourcing: we understand the importance of being cost effective and that sometimes off-site mitigation options may be the most suitable for the client and the proposed scheme. We have worked with a number of clients, Local Authorities, Conservation Charities and Biodiversity Brokers to facilitate the delivery of biodiversity units and funding for future management. 

Net Gain Assessment Review: we regularly review Net Gain Assessments undertaken by others to ensure they are appropriate and capture the full value of a scheme’s contributions. 

Due Diligence: we can advise when land is being considered for potential purchase and/or promotion for development on the potential Net Gain implications and potential costs as part of the due diligence process. Considering this at an early stage will help you to understand the financial viability of the scheme. 

Biodiversity Bank Setup: we have experience working with private estates and land owners to provide baseline information and design Net Gain schemes which makes their land suitable for sale to developers or Local Planning Authorities. We have expertise in designing and working with contractors to deliver restoration and enhancement, habitat creation, and long-term site management plans; allowing them to calculate future management costs. We are used to working closely with Local Planning Authorities and associated consultees to ensure that all schemes are as successful as possible both environmentally and within the community.