Developers in Britain will have to go green and put the environment first
Developers in Britain could be required to put the environment at the heart of residential and commercial building and have to assess the type of habitat before submitting planning applications.
A new consultation has been launched, which is open until 10 February 2019 which aims to make sure developers deliver a biodiversity net gain on all new developments, meaning habitats for wildlife must be enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.
The proposed new rules require developers to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans. Car parks and industrial sites would usually come lower on this scale, while more natural grasslands and woodlands would be given a much higher ranking for their environmental importance.
Developers would then be required to demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity, such as through the creation of green corridors, planting more trees, or forming local nature spaces. Green improvements on site would be encouraged, but in the rare circumstances where they are not possible the consultation proposes to charge developers a levy to pay for habitat creation or improvement elsewhere.
Announcing the consultation, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said that the proposals would help to achieve better outcomes for nature and people with the millions of pounds invested in environmental impact mitigation by developers every year.
He explained that while some developers have already been following a biodiversity net gain approach voluntarily, the proposed standardised, mandatory approach would give them clarity and certainty on how to improve the environment through development.
He also explained that it is the first step in the Government’s ambition to embed the wider principle of ‘environmental net gain’ in development, to drive measurable improvements for all aspects of the environment such as air quality, flood defences and clean water.
The Government will now work collaboratively with developers, water companies, tourism services, energy providers and waste specialists to better understand how profitable development can be a driving force of environmental improvement.
‘Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high quality homes. Mandating biodiversity net gain puts the environment at the heart of planning and development. This will not only create better places for people to live and work, but ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations,’ Gove pointed out.
‘In addition to upholding planning protections for sensitive sites such as ancient woodland and sites of special scientific interest, the consultation builds on the experiences of local authorities and developers who have already adopted net gain approaches,’ he added.
Developer, the Berkley Group, has already committed to creating a net biodiversity gain within all their development sites and are currently working with London Wildlife Trust to build Kidbrooke Village in East London, a new 4,800 home village development that contains 20 hectares of parkland.
Warwickshire County Council has trialled and implemented a system to ensure all developments lead to no net loss of biodiversity, with each development preparing a Biodiversity Impact Assessment prior to building.
According to Andrew Sells, chairman of Natural England, which has given extensive advice to Government on Net Gain, it is an ambitious idea that has the potential to bring significant benefits for our declining wildlife and the environment as a whole.