Blog from Melanie Hughes – Natural England Director of Change & Reform
Yesterday was an exciting and potentially significant day for nature conservation and for anyone who wants greater access to nature on their doorstep, whether at home or at work.
This is because yesterday saw the launch of a Government consultation which asks whether or not there should be a mandatory requirement that new housing, commercial and industrial developments should be built and delivered in ways that create more and better quality places for wildlife to live and thrive in.
This approach is termed ‘biodiversity net gain’ and is when a development leaves wildlife and nature in a measurably better state than it was beforehand. If adopted, a mandatory requirement for biodiversity net gain could help transform the fortunes of wildlife in this country. It could also help create greener and more wildlife friendly towns, cities and countryside, bringing nature to your doorstep and creating more and better quality greenspaces to enjoy.
To help evidence whether or not a biodiversity net gain outcome is occurring the consultation recommends that planning authorities and developers should use an updated version of the Defra Biodiversity Metric alongside ecological expertise. The Metric has been developed by Natural England with help from a range of experts.
The consultation seeks the public’s views on how best outcomes for nature can be most effectively delivered. It also asks whether or not Natural England’s innovative District Level Licensing approach for Greater Crested Newts should also be made a mandatory.
But it is not just wildlife and people that can benefit from biodiversity net gain, developers and local planning authorities can too. Biodiversity net gain can help streamline the planning process and create more attractive developments, and it can provide much needed money to invest in local green spaces.
To illustrate what biodiversity net gain can achieve, and to discuss some of the challenges involved, we have asked a number of different organisations, such as developers and local planning authorities, to blog about their experience. These guest blogs will appear over the duration of the consultation.
I encourage you all to read and respond to this consultation. It offers a tantalising glimpse of how we could transform development from something that all too often can lead to the loss of biodiversity to something that creates a lasting legacy of biodiversity net gain for you and future generations to enjoy.