By Joseph Dance BSc (Hons) MCIEEM, Associate at Tyler Grange

‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ (BNG) has very much been the buzz word across the housing sector for the past 12-18 months, following changes to the National Planning Policy Framework in 2019.

The forthcoming Environment Bill is seen as one of the most important environmental initiatives put forward for a generation and proposes to mandate all development to achieve a +10% change in biodiversity value pre vs post development. For example, a site with 10 units of biodiversity value pre-development would need to have 11 units post-development either on-site or, where this is not possible, off-site.

The likelihood is you are sitting on land that is desperate for some improvement but without financial security or long-term commitments, there’s no incentive to do anything with it. BNG changes all of that.

It provides estate managers and those with land assets with a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure additional resources for biodiversity improvements and habitat management by working with the growing demand for development.

Why BNG?

It is acknowledged that globally, biodiversity is declining through loss of species and habitat. Although development is by no means the only cause for this decline, in the UK it is a vehicle which is being used to address these losses BNG is the part of the Bill which puts the onus
on development to ‘leave the Environment in a better state than it was found’ whilst still providing a growing population with greener and healthier places to live, socialise and work.

What will it look like?

In lieu of formal adoption of the Bill, most Local Planning Authorities are already requesting quantifiable net gain to be achieved via development through existing and emerging Local Planning Policies. Tyler Grange’s experience in assessing development schemes against net gain targets has shown that, more often than not, any development in agricultural land without a decent Green Infrastructure provision needs to look at off-site options.

Most developers are also not fortunate enough to have access to additional land off-site and most Local Planning Authorities do not have sufficient land resource or capacity to provide developers with the necessary off-site options.

This is where estate managers can step in as a potential delivery partner, and in so doing, they can realise environmental enhancement opportunities that may have sat dormant for so long without financial backing. How do landlords get involved?

By advertising redundant or unviable land within your control to act as a receptor site for offsite creation, estates will be able to take advantage of the tariff imposed for creating off-site units.

Although yet to be finalised in the Environment Bill, an average tariff is expected to be between £9,000-£15,000 per unit required. This means that if your land has the capacity to offer biodiversity units through habitat restoration or creation, you could be sitting on an asset
which has the potential to generate thousands in income, not to mention significant environmental benefits.

For example, 1 hectare of pasture restoration to species-rich grassland could generate five biodiversity units, which equates to around £45,000-£75,000 worth of financial contribution from a developer.