It’s been a long time in the making, but we are pleased to see the launch today of the UK Government’s new Biodiversity Net Gain Scheme in England. RSPB Head of Nature Policy in England, Carl Bunnage, reflects on the announcement …
In a nutshell, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) means that developers must ensure that any development that harms nature (eg trees, hedges) needs to restore some land for nature. There are some exceptions, but this will apply to most new developments in England.
Simple really … and it's delivered through the builders either providing nature-friendly features directly within their new developments (such as housing estates) or paying for others to deliver new places for nature as nearby as possible, for example, to improve or extend local nature reserves.
BNG is not a silver bullet, and it has issues that still need to be ironed out, but with the right policies and rules in place, it could see £millions invested in the natural world – more birds, more hedges and woodlands, more wetlands – more life.
Importantly, BNG is not a green light for a developer to build anywhere. It adds to, rather than replaces, other planning rules. This means avoiding building in areas of importance for nature in the first place. Places such as our network of protected sites and irreplaceable habitats, like ancient woodlands, are simply too valuable to be damaged with the promise of cash to do something elsewhere.
Irreplaceable habitats are just that – places that take many (sometimes thousands) of years to create and which can’t simply be replaced. We have lost so much already, as detailed in the State of Nature Reports, and what is often left is small amounts, where nature clings on.
We are pleased that the UK Government has recognised the habitats on an official list - but it is short. If we are to reverse nature’s decline, this list must be extended, for example, to include such precious places as chalk grasslands and ancient hay meadows.
Alongside the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and Woodland Trust, we have published seven Nature Market Principles which we hope will shape the conversation and drive up standards of delivery to get the very best outcomes for nature.
Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to develop the new BNG system, and we watch this space with great interest as we all work toward a better system for habitats, wildlife, and people.
Just think of the win-wins for both nature and people if we can collectively implement this well!
The RSPB is ready to play our part. For developers looking to invest we have available units including priority habitat such as floodplain wetland mosaic fen habitat and wet woodland as well as other neutral grassland, mixed scrub, ponds, hedgerows, and ditches you find out more here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/whats-happening/news/work-with-the-rspb-to-plan-and-implement-your-biodiversity-net-gain-bng-strategy
And contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org