Property development is a complex industry and one that has historically faced difficulty when individuals or professional development companies have tried to make greener choices. In response to the challenges faced in the industry, the UK government in November 2021 brought in the Environment Act that mandated core policies surrounding the introduction of new measures for property developers to implement when building homes and other buildings. One of these policies was the requirement of biodiversity net gain, and in this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about biodiversity net gain, regardless of whether you’re an individual or professional property developer.
What Is Biodiversity Net Gain?
Biodiversity Net Gain, or BNG, defines the process of ensuring that where a property development has taken place there is a net positive impact on the environment surrounding it. If you’re assessing a site to get it ready for development work, then the existing biodiversity level can be measured using the DEFRA biodiversity metric, and this provides a baseline for the work that should follow. BNG is relevant to all developers, regardless of the size or scope of your building project, so if you work in the property industry, this is a key element to be aware of.
Adhering to BNG requirements might mean making adaptations to the project plan, but any qualified and professional project manager, developer, or architect will be aware of this and should be able to act accordingly. This means that if you’re consulting professionals to help on the project, you can hold them to an environmental standard that’s laid out in the law.
Once the land or plot has been surveyed by the development team, an application can be made to local authorities, and it’s vital that when you send this you outline any alterations that may need to be made throughout the process to cause a net gain in biodiversity. This will give your application the best chance of being accepted.
The Response To The Introduction Of BNG Laws
Before BNG laws were introduced, biodiversity was covered under legacy laws that were carried over from the European Union, so they weren’t always specific to the needs of the UK’s habitats. When the UK left the EU, it was discovered that even these limited protections would be lost, and so policies were developed to protect the natural world in the UK. Under the new Environment Act of 2021, biodiversity net gain plays a key role in the preservation of biodiverse spaces throughout the UK and ensures that developers are considerate of the world around them when they build new homes.
The reaction to the Environment Act was overwhelmingly positive, with many developers small and large encouraging the legislation, as not only does it support the environment but it also provides structure around how they can approach building work planning.
What Are The Benefits Of BNG?
For the natural world, biodiversity net gain comes with a host of benefits, including:
- Avoidance of negative impacts on natural sites wherever possible, particularly in the context of pollution and human disturbance to wildlife.
- The minimisation of negative impacts where they are a necessary part of the development of property or other approved building projects.
- Restoration of damage caused by a project that has had an environmental impact. BNG legislation rules that any damage needs to be restored as much as possible before any work can be considered to offset this damage.
- Offsetting of damage caused by other positive environmental changes. For example, the creation of safe bee and bat houses, or the planting of new trees and greenery.
For the local environment, increasing the biodiversity of building projects makes a big difference, and it also positively impacts the lives of local residents who might be impacted by the introduction of a new building project. If property developers both small and large collectively work to improve the biodiversity of their sites, positive long-term change can be achieved.
How To Introduce BNG Principles To Your Next Development
Now that you have an understanding of the laws and regulations behind BNG, as well as some of the extensive benefits that this practice provides to the natural world, it’s time to introduce BNG principles to your next development.
- Assess The Site
First things first, the site will need to be assessed by an ecologist as part of the initial planning stages. During this assessment, you can ask questions about the potential of the site for property development and whether there might be any barriers to getting your project over the line.
- Create A BNG Plan
The most important stage of the process is to create a biodiversity net gain plan. A qualified ecologist will evaluate the plot, developing a plan that includes realistic and effective solutions to meet BNG laws for property development. At a minimum, this should be a 10% increase in the biodiversity of the area and will ensure that the local authority can approve your project. Finding the right professional is vital during this stage, and Biodiversity Net Gain Plan can help.
- Implement BNG Practices
Finally, once you’ve completed your site assessment and created a foolproof plan to improve the biodiversity of the area, it’s time to implement BNG practices when completing your project. Remember that the local authority will likely want to visit on multiple occasions to check your adherence to the plan, and ensure that nothing has deviated off track in terms of biodiversity, so it’s important that your project manager regularly updates the construction team if it looks like there’s a risk of the project veering off course.
Working in property development comes with a number of challenges, but biodiversity net gain should be an element of the building process that is naturally incorporated into all new builds and the extension of existing projects. By finding a qualified and professional team of ecologists to complete your site assessment and support you with a BNG plan, you can ensure that you’ve done everything possible to make a positive difference to the world around your site.