Government proposals to place the environment at the heart of new development have been unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

In plans published today (2 December 2018) for consultation, developers could be required to deliver a ‘biodiversity net gain’ when building new housing or commercial development – 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.

These 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.

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, while also considering whether any sites – such as small and brownfield sites – should be exempt from the rules. It will still deliver the homes the country needs – making the Government’s vision of delivering 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s a reality – at the same time as contributing to the goal of passing on our environment in a better condition.

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Business and Biodiversity Offsets to deliver net gain in many business settings – 10+ years of thinking highlighted in this report

November 14, 2018 │ In the wake of a major new report from WWF and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) showing dramatic declines in biodiversity over the last fifty years, over 100 members of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) are meeting in Paris this month to launch a new portfolio of practical solutions for companies and policy-makers to contribute to biodiversity protection. In particular, the new roadmap for business sets out steps enabling a company to make the transition to delivering a Net Gain for Biodiversity.

A central driver of the biodiversity crisis is economic growth itself, as wildlife habitat is lost through new infrastructure development, industrial expansion, and commercial agriculture. But BBOP says it is possible to reconcile economic development and biodiversity conservation – and that proven strategies are ready for use by governments, financial institutions, and businesses.

“Decision-makers sometimes think they have to choose between environmental protection and economic development,” says BBOP Director Kerry ten Kate of Forest Trends. “But it’s often a false choice – practical solutions to reconcile them do exist.  There are ways to support development, so people have access to food, materials, energy, infrastructure and jobs, while conserving biodiversity.  BBOP is releasing a set of tools that we are confident can help companies, banks, and policy-makers rise to the challenge.”

The meeting in Paris, to be held on 27 November at French bank CDC represents the culmination of 15 years of collaboration between over 100 government agencies, companies, financial institutions, NGOs and individual experts, together representing over 2300 people from 45 countries that have been involved in BBOP’s “Community of Practice” over the last decade and a half.  (For conference registration details, contact Together, the members have developed and tested best practice on how to design biodiversity-friendly development to ensure “No Net Loss” and preferably a “Net Gain” in biodiversity.

“If you follow what’s known as the mitigation hierarchy and avoid the most serious impacts, minimize your footprint, restore affected areas after the project and finally offset any remaining losses, it’s possible to plan development projects to result in the same level of, or more, conservation, instead of an overall loss of biodiversity,” explains Samir Whitaker, Business and Biodiversity Programme Manager at ZSL. BBOP has been the principal global forum for collective learning in this area and has developed an internationally recognized Standard to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain and roadmaps for government and business. Click here to read more

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