Those who work in the environment sector will be familiar with biodiversity net gain (BNG). The primary aim of BNG is to ensure that the natural environment is left in a better state than prior to development. The Environment Act 2021 makes the delivery of a minimum of 10% BNG mandatory for all planning permissions in England (with some exceptions) from November 2023.
Beginning to prepare ahead of the new legal requirements this year is an important step for planning decision-making and policy, particularly for local authorities and a diversity of stakeholders including local communities, landowners, and farmers.
The 2019 State of Nature report highlighted that there has been a 13% decline in the average abundance of wildlife in the UK in the last 50 years, despite legislation aimed to prevent this and protect biodiversity. Delivering BNG is also closely linked to other socio-economic priorities including place-making, public access to nature, and health and wellbeing.
Engagement is the authentic collaboration of multiple and diverse stakeholders and can be conducted across all stages of a project lifecycle. It may take the form of:
Engagement needs to be designed strategically according to specific project needs and should take place throughout a project’s lifecycle.
Public consultation and wider stakeholder engagement are an obligation under BNG. A key question of BNG is: “How can the natural environment deliver for local people?” BNG can help to better link place-making and infrastructure and, to maximise benefit, should include stakeholder engagement and consultation with interested and affected parties.
By identifying and developing strategies for the delivery of BNG for the benefit of local people through engagement, improved environmental, social, and economic outcomes may be achieved in line with local priorities. For example, enhancing public access to greenspace supports biodiversity with the provision of habitat through greenspace, while the community can draw health and well-being benefits associated with access and interaction with nature.
When designed and delivered well, BNG can help to secure long-term benefits for nature, people and places, and the economy. By engaging in collaborative ways with landowners, developers, local planning authorities, communities, among others, and tailoring engagement methods according to the intended audience to better value inputs, co-benefits of BNG may be achieved