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Delay to biodiversity net gain gives us a chance to build in biodiversity

National Federation of Builders

3 min read Partner content

When the Government announced that Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) will be delayed until February 2024, small and medium sized housebuilders collectively sighed in relief. However, the delay has not yet made the steps to ensure best outcomes for nature and business and still looks to be a new tax on industry at the expense of a more biodiverse environment.

However, the House Builders Association (HBA), the housing arm of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), has been the most prominent supporter of BNG and still hopes that its five years ‘building in biodiversity’ campaign can now be thoroughly explored for implementation.

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the NFB, said: “We have worked incredibly hard on strategies to ensure BNG can work in practice and the announced delay gives us a chance to work more closely with the Government to implement onsite solutions. By building in biodiversity, we can ensure development works to grow habitats and stimulate species recovery, rather than acting as a block on wildlife corridors via offsetting credits.”

After a five-year campaign on onsite solutions and speaking to the Environment Committee during the examination of the Environment Bill before it became an Act, the HBA wrote to ministers in July 2023 with their concerns that BNG was going to harm SMEs the most because they were unable to set enough land aside to deliver the narrow vision of habitats set out by the BNG calculator.

It proposed three solutions, with Option 3 being a modified version of the offers made before BNG was legislated for in the Environment Act.

  • For developments of up to fifty homes, require as much onsite BNG as possible but disregard the ten percent expectation
  • As above, but includes onsite fabric and design solutions in the metric
  • A two-year trial which extends the SSM to fifty homes, including fabric and design onsite solutions in the BNG calculation but capping them at half the BNG requirement, e.g., 5% of 10% is required (preferred option)

The HBA offered several sites for Option 3 because members recognised that industry needed to prove the onsite concept worked.

“The evidence is clear, if you build in biodiversity, you improve biodiversity outcomes and our proposal achieves this in practice, rather than going down the offsetting route. This means we build habitats into the fabric of the development and site design, potentially having it led by local policies, such as Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

Some councils have already got this guidance, for example, Stratford on Avon’s Part N SPD and so if we can attribute weight to onsite solutions in the BNG calculator, we can support all species with local strategies, not blanket national ones. This means swifts, which roost in winter get a unique strategy rather than a catch all outcome. Species reintroduction is given the best fighting chance through targeted support, all development, not just housebuilding can contribute, and we start to develop an ecological industry which is truly world leading, to go along with our already world leading biodiversity research.

The HBA has a guidance document on some of the ways we can achieve this, which ministers in DEFRA and DLUHC were sent. It sets out a vision for making BNG world leading and hope it inspires a conversation we have been having for half a decade.”

The ‘Building in Biodiversity’ guidance can be downloaded, here.
https://www.builders.org.uk/documents/building-in-biodiversity-hba-guidance-document/

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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