Working on behalf of Defra, we have completed an analysis of consultation responses on proposals to make biodiversity net gain a requirement for new developments.

The proposals come in the context of the UK Government’s ambition to embed the principle of ‘environmental net gain’ into development, as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. A net gain approach aims to leave the environment in a better state following development than it was in beforehand, by avoiding and mitigating harm as well as by creating and enhancing natural habitats.

Between December 2nd 2018 and February 10th 2019, Defra ran a public consultation on introducing mandatory biodiversity net gain requirements for new developments going through the planning system in England. The consultation sought stakeholder views on whether biodiversity net gain should be mandatory, and on how best to implement the requirement in order to deliver new development without negatively impacting our wildlife.

The consultation consisted of 45 questions, comprising an in-depth exploration of the issues. Some of the key topics covered included:

  • The scope of a biodiversity net gain policy;
  • The calculation and use of a standard biodiversity metric;
  • Measures for delivering environmental improvements; and,
  • Monitoring and evaluation of development/habitat sites.

Defra received almost 500 responses from environmental groups, developers, local planning authorities, planning professionals and members of the public. We analysed and summarised the key messages and themes, including analysing the frequencies with which certain types of opinions were expressed and suggestions made. This provided Defra with a detailed understanding of the pros and cons of integrating biodiversity improvements into development, and of stakeholder positions on the issues.

Project Director David Baxter said:

“It was great to see such a high number of consultation responses from a range of stakeholders, demonstrating strong engagement from all concerned. The lessons learned from our analysis will not only guide Defra in developing its policy approach to biodiversity net gain, but also contribute to an understanding of the issues around integrating environmental principles more widely into planning and development.”

Photo courtesy of G. Brändle, Agroscope, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0.