Biodiversity Net Gain is a requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework and is a key element of sustainable development. Once the Environment Bill is enacted there will be a mandatory requirement for all but the smallest development to achieve nets gains in biodiversity.
It is important that developers, local planning authorities and other stakeholders, such as ecological consultants, have a unified understanding of what Biodiversity Net Gain is. Simply put, it is the idea that development should result in more or better quality natural habitats. This is to be achieved by improving existing or creating new habitat either on the site of a development or elsewhere. It is also important to understand that Biodiversity Net Gain does not remove the requirement for implementing the mitigation hierarchy.
To help achieve Biodiversity Net Gain DEFRA have produced a metric which allows users to calculate the impact of a development on biodiversity. It should be noted that this tool should be used in conjunction with expert ecological advice. While not mandatory for small sites a separate calculator has also been developed for such developments.
While the current target proposed by the Government is a net gain of 10 percent many Local Authorities may require more. It is important to understand that greater net gains for biodiversity, when designed well and included from the start of planning, can achieve multiple benefits for all stakeholders through the provision of quality green infrastructure. These benefits include climate change mitigation and adaptation, improved health and wellbeing for residents, flood and water management and even increased house values.