The Government has launched a consultation that aims to ensure wildlife can be better protected and enhanced in future developments.
The proposals set out in the Biodiversity Net Gain consultation will help communities, planners, developers and Local Planning Authorities ensure new developments are ‘nature positive’.
This means that developments will have to be delivered in a way which helps to reduce and restore any biodiversity loss during the building phase, and deliver a 10% boost to the local area’s biodiversity.
‘The pandemic has reinforced how much our homes, communities and outdoor spaces mean to us. Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can and must go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high quality homes,’ said environment minister, Rebecca Pow.
‘Our plans to make sure new developments better protect and enhance wildlife and nature will create better places for people to live and work, and it will ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.’
The Government has also announced a new funding pot of over £4m to help Local Planning Authorities and other local authorities with planning oversight, to prepare for Biodiversity Net Gain which will become mandatory two years after Royal Assent of the Environment Act.
Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, commented: ‘Investing in Nature’s recovery is a vital national priority and biodiversity net gain is an ambitious and innovative mechanism to help do it. It has the potential to bring real-life benefits, including funding for Nature’s recovery, in the process ensuring we leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before.
‘It is important to remember, however, that the starting point is to avoid harm in the first place, moving to net gain arrangements only in cases where developments meet all other planning requirements. I’m delighted that Natural England’s technical expertise was able to shape this policy and look forward to using it to secure better outcomes for Nature, while streamlining the planning process.’
Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: ‘We’re in the midst of climate, nature and public health emergencies, and they must be tackled together, in an integrated way. Done right, biodiversity net gain – the principle that all development should leave nature in a better state than before – could represent a big step forward.
‘But, as ever, the devil is in the detail. We need to be confident that the way the Environment Act is implemented through planning will genuinely work for nature, climate and people.
‘Critically, we also need to see irreplaceable habitats given greater protection – the grasslands, woodlands, hedgerows and watercourses that support so much nature. Creating new and better spaces for wildlife, for example through Nature Recovery Networks, is a vital next step. Without adequate protection for what we already have, nature will not get the help it needs to recover.’