THE Government has set out proposals that will require developers to protect wildlife habitats as part of an effort to encourage greener developments.
Environment secretary Michael Gove unveiled the proposals earlier this week. They set out a mandatory requirement on developers to deliver a “biodiversity net gain” when building new homes or commercial developments.
In practice, this means that habitat for wildlife must be “enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development”.
“Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high-quality homes,” said Gove.
“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.”
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, the Government said.
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.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) said 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.
It would also enable them to consider whether any sites – such as small and brownfield sites – should be exempt from the rules.
The Government claims that this new approach will uphold 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.
“Net Gain is an ambitious idea that has the potential to bring significant benefits for our declining wildlife and the environment as a whole,” said Andrew Sells, chairman of Natural England. “If net gain succeeds for nature then it will also be succeeding for people, because it means that they are living and working with a thriving natural environment all around them.”
The consultation runs until 10 February 2019.