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The UK government has launched a consultation into new proposals that will ensure new developments and planning decisions protect and enhance biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Net Gain proposals aim to help communities, planners and local authorities ensure new schemes being built are ‘nature positive’ and put biodiversity gains at the heart of designs and decisions. The proposals will see existing habitats for wildlife better protected, while new developments will be expected to compensate over and above any ecological impact they have, either on-site or through purchase of credits for nature restoration elsewhere.
The plans will also see local authorities with planning oversight gain access to £4 million in funding to prepare for the proposals, and expand and upskill existing ecologist teams to better work with developers.
The Biodiversity Net Gain proposals are set to become mandatory two years after the 2021 Environment Act gains Royal Assent.
Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:
The pandemic has reinforced how much our homes, communities and outdoor spaces mean to us. Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can and must go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high quality homes.
Our plans to make sure new developments better protect and enhance wildlife and nature will create better places for people to live and work, and it will ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:
Investing in Nature’s recovery is a vital national priority and biodiversity net gain is an ambitious and innovative mechanism to help do it. It has the potential to bring real-life benefits, including funding for Nature’s recovery, in the process ensuring we leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before.
It is important to remember, however, that the starting point is to avoid harm in the first place, moving to net gain arrangements only in cases where developments meet all other planning requirements. I’m delighted that Natural England’s technical expertise was able to shape this policy and look forward to using it to secure better outcomes for Nature, while streamlining the planning process.
The consultation and associated documents being announced have been developed with advice from the government’s statutory nature body, Natural England, and asks developers, planning authorities, environmental professionals, landowners and other interested parties for their views on the details of how biodiversity net gain should be delivered when building new housing or commercial development.
The consultation closes on 5 April 2022 and can be found here.