Developers will have to demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity when building new housing or commercial developments, under new government plans.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has unveiled new plans under which developers could be required to deliver a ‘biodiversity net gain’, which means habitats for wildlife must be enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.
The proposed new rules require developers to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans.
Car parks and industrial sites would usually come lower on this scale, while more natural grasslands and woodlands would be given a much higher ranking for their environmental importance.
Green improvements on site would be encouraged, but in the rare circumstances where they are not possible the consultation proposes to charge developers a levy to pay for habitat creation or improvement elsewhere.
While some developers have already been following a biodiversity net gain approach voluntarily, the proposed standardised, mandatory approach would give them clarity and certainty on how to improve the environment through development, while also considering whether any sites – such as small and brownfield sites – should be exempt from the rules.
It will still deliver the homes the country needs – making the Government’s vision of delivering 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s a reality – at the same time as contributing to the goal of passing on our environment in a better condition.
‘Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high-quality homes,’ said environment secretary, Michael Gove.
‘Mandating biodiversity net gain puts the environment at the heart of planning and development. This will not only create better places for people to live and work, but ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.’
Balfour Beatty’s biodiversity technical specialist, Dr Julia Baker, commented: ‘Balfour Beatty strongly support the concept of biodiversity net gain and the Government’s 25-year environment plan for sustainable use of land. We are leading the way in developing new standards, continually seeking ways for our construction projects to generate net gains in biodiversity, in ways that leave wider social and environmental benefits.
‘Early planning allows for biodiversity net gain measures to be integrated into the design, programme and budget of schemes, reducing the cost and ultimately generating long-term benefits for nature and society.’