The government’s delay on launching new biodiversity regulations for housing developers should be seen as an opportunity that allows a smoother transition to achieving the 10% net gain mandate, says Fera Science.
Although the postponed BNG (biodiversity net gain) deadline poses risk and uncertainty for the sector, developers can capitalise on making the most of the extra preparation time, explains Paul Brown, Senior Remote Sensing and Geomatics Specialist at Fera.
He says: “A huge amount of work, on multiple fronts, has already gone into preparing for BNG legislation to go live in November, and the two-month deferral must not slow down the implementation of BNG plans.
“The delay may well allow local planning authorities, developers, landowners, service providers, habitat banks and other BNG stakeholders to plan more effectively for the new rules.
Developers will have gained valuable time to plan, understand, and decide on the detailed steps they need to take to ensure developments can go ahead from January 2024, he adds.
“Before building work can begin, developers will need to assess and calculate the level of biodiversity on-site, and take the time to design a BNG plan that sets out how 10% net gain – at least – will be achieved and monitored for the next 30 years. All of this will be required to gain approval from their local planning authority.”
Working closely with Defra on rolling out the BNG scheme and developing the statutory Biodiversity Metric calculation tool, the public body Natural England has advised developers to invest in ecological expertise to provide guidance with the planning process and help ensure legality.
“That’s where Fera’s knowledge and experience comes in,” Mr Brown explains.
“Ecologist support helps developers to ensure they are designing a BNG plan in line with best practice principles and standards, and ensuring it can be maintained for at least three decades.”
The role of science and ecology is integral for sustainable development, he adds.
“Our unique level of insight into biodiversity baseline mapping, monitoring, maintenance and creation is invaluable to help house builders meet their own sustainability agendas and create nature-positive communities that stand out in the marketplace while also benefitting society.
“With expert support, and widespread commitment to the January 2024 BNG deadline, the UK’s leading role in enhancing biodiversity can be realised.”
To find out more about how Fera and the LAND360 service can help the housing development industry visit https://www.fera.co.uk/land360-housing-developers