BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN

WHAT IS
BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN?

FROM 2023, DEVELOPERS HAVE TO DELIVER 10% BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN ON NEW PROJECTS IN ENGLAND.

Why Invest in Biodiversity?

We're using up Earth's resources at an unsustainable rate - BNG is designed to halt nature's decline.

In 2021, the government published a review of our biodiversity – that is, the health of our natural environment. This report warned that we’re currently using up Earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate. Now, this might not seem like news – most environmental organisations have been shouting about it for decades, but this official government report, written by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta - an economist, not an environmentalist - was pretty ground-breaking in its conclusions.

The Dasgupta report explored how important a healthy environment is for our economy biodiversity improves the productivity of our farms, our mental and physical health, our fish stocks, water quality and many other things besides. Dasgupta said that we urgently need to invest in nature, suggesting the government should lead the way by setting clear standards that force companies and organisations to protect and restore the environment. Enter Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)...

HOW TO ACHIEVE BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN

BASELINE

Understand the type, location and value of biodiversity on your land before work begins.

MITIGATE

Identify working practices and offsetting opportunities that improve biodiversity.

PROTECT

Carry out maintenance or put in place management strategies to protect the gains.

developers will deliver a positive benefit to the natural world.

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

BNG isn't just a buzzword from the Environment Bill - it's a strictly-designed plan which delivers results.

'Biodiversity Net Gain’ isn't the most obvious phrase to get your head around. To picture it, you might find it helpful to first think about what 100% Biodiversity Net Loss would look like...


If you took a plot of land and removed all of the biodiversity on it - that is, the animals, plants and other life (fungi, bacteria etc) - for example by bleaching the soil, concreting over it then maintaining a regular regime of pesticide spraying, that would be 100% Biodiversity Net Loss. It would also be a truly awful idea.


10% net gain is the opposite - rather than losing biodiversity when land is developed, we actually see a small improvement in the amount and diversity of wildlife on site or in the local area. For example, a new wildflower meadow could be planted by the car park, a pond could be created nearby, and the development could use swift bricks in the walls to provide nesting places for these birds. The biodiversity destroyed by the new housing would be evened out by all those interventions, and then a little bit of extra biodiversity - 10% (or more) - would be added on top.

Most developments to date have involved some form of biodiversity loss – perhaps old trees were chopped down or chalk grassland was tarmacked over. In 2020, the Natural History Museum described how the UK had accidentally ‘led the world in destroying the natural environment’. Over time our national biodiversity dropped lower and lower (see graph below), and, although some measures have seen recovery in recent years, we haven't done enough to prevent many species declining to the point where they're likely to go locally extinct. What’s encouraging, though, is that there is a way forward, and it’s easy to achieve with the right guidance.

Biodiversity Net Gain doesn't only describe an improvement in the quality of an ecosystem - BNG is also a carefully-designed set of measures that developers must follow to achieve those gains. If these are implemented correctly, we might begin to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss in the UK.
Change in relative abundance of UK priority species, 1970 to 2016

Key BNG Facts

Delivering BNG on site is likely to be your cheapest option. We can help you achieve that.

ONSITE, OFFSITE, CREDITS OR LAND BANK?

You might have noticed that we’ve referred to delivering net gain on site and off site (offsets). The new rules account for the fact that it is difficult to deliver BNG at certain sites, so what are all your options?

SAVE MONEY BY CONSIDERING BNG from the earliest stages of a development.

How Do I Deliver Biodiversity Net Gain?

BNG is designed to be simple to deliver, when you partner with an ecological consultancy.

So let’s get down to the bottom line – what do you need to consider, to deliver biodiversity net gain? If you partner with an ecological consultancy, they’ll do the heavy lifting for you – carrying out a biodiversity baseline survey, mapping out the different habitats, explaining to you the best places for development, which would minimise impact on the local environment (reducing your net gain costs). They’ll also suggest potential habitat creation and restoration strategies, whether you’re planning on delivering these onsite or offsite, to hit that magic 10% goal. They may be able to perform this habitat restoration and creation work themselves (like Ecosulis), or subcontract it.

Any habitats created or restored during this work will need to be protected for at least 30 years to meet the legal requirements, which is worth considering for leased land. An offsite solution might be better for those projects, where you can guarantee future protection with a ‘conservation convenant’. Whenever you’re delivering net gain, the site will be added to a national register of ‘net gain delivery sites’, and your plans for net gain will be stored in an official ‘Biodiversity Gain Plan’.

BS 8683 is a new British Standard for the process of planning and implementing net gain – it may help your planning application to prove that you have followed the correct procedures, and this standard offers guidance for how to effectively deliver net gain.

It's recommended that you consider net gain from the earliest stage of development to keep costs down – you can even ask vendors to write net gain clauses into land sale contracts. But why is it important to consider early on? If you buy a site with a fragile ecosystem or high biodiversity, it may be much more expensive to deliver net gain. In contrast, degraded ecosystems like intensively-grazed pastures could be cheap to restore, even helping to offset biodiversity loss on other sites.

Rewilded ecosystems have much lower maintenance costs.

Top Tips for Delivering BNG

We’ve picked up some great tips from industry insiders on how to deliver biodiversity net gain efficiently.

How to Supercharge your BNG data

The DEFRA 3.1 Metric has been criticised by scientists, but there's a much better solution...

When it comes to biodiversity net gain, the DEFRA 3.1 metric that the government is rolling out is really just a basic starter package. But the good news is that you don't have to rely on just 3.1 - there are alternatives out there which complement it, and offer better value.

3.1 has been criticised by scientists for being inconsistent, unreliable and focusing on habitats rather than the biodiversity which underlies them. 3.1 is built upon a fairly simple list of habitats, their ‘distinctiveness’ and ‘strategic significance’, which are worked on in an ‘official’ Excel spreadsheet (no web-based solutions yet!).

Ecosulis are building a 21st century alternative for a similar price – ours will feature an online dashboard with a beautifully-designed, user-friendly personal portal. You’ll have access to a whole spectrum of advanced biodiversity metrics, which evaluate the real diversity of the whole ecosystem, based on over a decade of research.

Our reports detail the ecosystem connectivity, vegetation structure and presence of important species. We even sync up our platform with the DEFRA 3.1 metric, so you can still get that output to comply with current requirements.

We also offer habitat creation and restoration services, covering the end-to-end biodiversity net gain system in-house, providing you with a really simple net gain solution. If your organisation is committed to improving biodiversity, then our solution will ensure you get there safely, with the data to prove it.