In recent days and weeks we have seen speculation (confirmed today 28.09.23) in the news about delay to the implementation of biodiversity gain through planning. While its easy to take stories in the news as definitive, and for some to possibly despair at reported changes, I find it useful to just reflect on where biodiversity gain comes from (including the body of legislation and policy that already requires it) and why society needs it.
- The UK Government has (previously) declared a joint climate and biodiversity crisis, think “colossal decline” in biodiversity.
- We need “…urgent transformative change to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss”
- Environmental Improvement Plan (2023), with Rishi Sunak’s endorsement, sets out “… a blueprint not just to halt the decline of nature in our country, but to reverse it”.
- Nature loss harms humans – nature gives us resources and raw materials, as well as providing us with clean air, flood attenuation, water purification and pollination.
- Nature loss damages economic prosperity – nature is an asset which is finite and has recognised value. Office for National Statistics data 2020 values the pollution reduction contribution of deciduous woodland and urban trees at £1.4 billion worth per year in England.
- UK Government have committed to implement biodiversity gain in planning sometime in November 2023. (Planned publication of the regulation November 2023 and commencement of biodiversity gain January 2024)
As a reminder Biodiversity Gain (in planning) will require a ≥10% (with some local variation) change from a pre-development position to a future net gain position. This change needs a regulation to implement it, and only comes into force at the point that the Secretary of State chooses to publish the regulation.
But what seems to be being missed in discussion of these possible changes is that biodiversity enhancement regulations have been implemented and planning policy already exists. These already require applications to deliver change from a pre-development position above no net loss. For ease of reference, the drivers outside of the possibly delayed Net Gain Regulations are:
- Legislation – The Environment Act 2021 (Commencement No. 5 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2022.
From 1st January 2023, this now requires (Must) public authorities (read LPAs) to “conserve and enhance biodiversity.
- National Planning Policy Framework – 174. Planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by:…d) minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures; and Interpreted through case law as a measurable change of ≥1%;
- Local Planning Policy Framework/Expectation – Local Planning Authorities already (in part) have established net gain policies and ‘net gain objectives’ with examples of 10-20%. Planning authorities determine applications in accordance with these policies.
- Corporate targets – Increasing numbers of clients have public facing commitments or net gain objectives as part of their business operating model
- Financial Disclosure – Increased emphasis on setting science-based targets for nature to generate data and analytical outputs that help companies understand and report on nature-related risk and opportunity assessment as part of their corporate reporting.
So if you are looking to either deliver on development goals by easing planning process, or you want to respond to shareholder interests or to deliver on societal need lets still talk about building Biodiversity Gain into projects and the role it has in delivering a sustainable future for us all.
Temple can provide a range of Biodiversity Gain services and our team of environmental and sustainability specialists includes nationally recognised experts in climate and carbon, social value and stakeholder engagement, biodiversity and planning. The Temple team expertise means that we can support on a wide range of projects t make sure we deliver tangible benefits for communities and biodiversity, alongside wider ecosystem benefits.