Temple’s James Sanders was the latest guest editor of IEMA’s Impact Assessment Outlook Journal Vol 19, which features a range of articles from industry experts including Temple’s Jon Riley who discusses local wildlife sites.
The UK has experienced significant decline in biodiversity since the 1970s, putting many species at risk of extinction. The reasons for this are complex and numerous, but a main contributor over recent decades has been construction and agricultural practices which have not prioritised biodiversity, leading to changes in land use and the distribution of habitat types. This loss of nature is staggering and fundamentally leads to harm to humans and damage to economic prosperity.
The Government has since acknowledged that there is an ‘urgent transformative change required to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss’ , which has led to increases in legislation, policy and guidance. Most recently, the Environment Act 2021 (Commencement No. 5 and Transitional Provisions) states that from the 1st of January 2023 public authorities are required to ‘conserve and enhance biodiversity’, through the exercise of their functions. This is echoed in the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, which has a stated commitment, endorsed by Rishi Sunak, for action to reverse the decline in nature. Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) of at least 10% (in relation to the pre-development biodiversity value) will come into force imminently in early 2024. However, before this, all development should have been adhering to the NPPF (paragraph 174), which means, ‘minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity…’ which has been interpreted through case studies and case law as a measurable change of ≥1%. This, combined with many local authorities establishing net gain policies and ‘net gain objectives’ that include examples of 10-20% BNG requirement for planning applications, carries significant weight in the planning balance, even while not mandatory. When BNG is a requirement, the balance should shift even more towards the positive for biodiversity.
Read the latest Impact Assessment Outlook Journal in full here.