What is Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is and why is it critical to reversing the steep decline in UK wildlife? There is much existing and emerging policy and legal framework on the matter that will shape development.
David West – Associate Ecologist at Tetra Tech – is an expert on BNG. He is a Chartered Environmentalist with over 12 years of experience as an ecological consultant and holds protected species licences for bats, hazel dormice, and great crested newts. David represented Tetra Tech on the advisory group for BREEAM’s Strategic Ecological Framework from 2018 – 2019 and now leads our efforts in Biodiversity Net Gain and Nitrogen Neutrality.
What are the main principles of biodiversity net gain?
The overriding idea of BNG is to leave biodiversity in a better state than we found it. This is supported by ten key principles including following the mitigation hierarchy, which requires that avoidance of impacts be the first option before considering minimisation and compensation. Other key principles include avoiding double-counting of other mitigation requirements and making sure net gains are measurable. Arguably the most important principle is to make sure decision-making is transparent.
Why is mandatory biodiversity net gain regulation necessary?
Making BNG mandatory affords several benefits. It makes the desired outcome (i.e. improvements in biodiversity nationally) much more likely. It also creates a level playing field and a consistent approach for developers, local authorities, and consultants. The regulation of BNG is equally important because, historically, biodiversity mitigation often fails to achieve its objectives due to lack of management and monitoring. It is hoped that BNG will be more successful in this regard.
How is the implementation of biodiversity net gain affecting business? How do you foresee business success and biodiversity coexisting in the future?
The input required from ecologists is greater, and there is often a higher requirement for habitat creation than would previously have been needed to meet planning policy. Once BNG has become more commonplace and LPAs are better placed to deliver local habitat creation schemes, it will become much easier to plan for, although biodiversity will need to be considered as early as possible in planning.
How does an organisation put in the evidence to show it is dealing with biodiversity net gain? (and by extension, how does Tetra Tech support this?)
BNG requires a more detailed field survey to assess habitat condition, which can be performed by our ecology team. The data collected is then inputted to a GIS database by our skilled GIS team before pivot tables are used to generate the inputs to the BNG metric.
In addition to detailed reports for planning, we have also been providing high-level risk assessments for clients to assess whether prospective sites could achieve BNG. Using a GIS-led approach makes it easier for us to carry out the high number of amendments, which in our experience, most BNG assessments require.