Rural Outlook 2024 - Biodiversity Net Gain: An Opportunity for Nature

06.3.24 4 Minute Read

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Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is the mechanism by which new housing, commercial and infrastructure developments in England will become ‘nature positive’.

As of 12  February 2024 all major developments must deliver a minimum of 10% BNG.


Developments will need to offset their impacts on biodiversity through habitat creation and enhancement that can be delivered both within development sites as well as off-site. However, this new legislation doesn’t just affect developments – it has implications on landowners and investors who will play a key role in the delivery of off-site BNG.

We are thought leaders in the implementation of BNG and work with landowners and investors to establish habitat banks across England to provide a vital solution to developers with offsite BNG requirements. Our extensive experience in this sector has led us to believe that the delivery of off-site BNG will ultimately coalesce around the establishment of ecologically strategic, landscape-scale habitat banks that can offset multiple developments and maximise environmental outcomes.

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The balance between on- and off-site delivery

It is important that built-up areas include greenspace, which provides numerous benefits to both wildlife and society. Gardens, green roofs, amenity grassland and other urban greenspaces can act as stepping stones for wildlife moving across villages, towns and cities, and opportunistic species such as foxes and common pipistrelle bats can thrive in these areas. However, species more sensitive to anthropogenic pressures e.g. human disturbance, noise, and light pollution often avoid these areas.

Urban greenspace provides access to nature for local communities, which is known to have health and wellbeing benefits, as well as other ecosystem services such as sustainable drainage systems, temperature regulation, and improved air quality.

Therefore, where an area is lacking in greenspace, there is undoubtedly significant benefits to prioritising the delivery of habitat creation in that area and new developments implementing BNG on-site can serve this purpose. Though it is important to recognise that this is not principally delivering benefits for biodiversity.

To truly maximise biodiversity, we turn to the Lawton Review published in 2010, which emphasises the importance of bigger, better, and more joined up areas for nature. The upcoming Nature Recovery Network (NRN) and Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) have been developed to provide a roadmap for the optimal delivery of nature recovery across England and are expected to influence the delivery of BNG.

The LNRS will provide information on environmental priorities and local nature recovery maps that will contribute to the national NRN. It is expected that the NRN will include existing environmentally designated sites and river tributaries and the areas surrounding and linking these, with the aim of creating a network of connected habitats that buffer and expand areas of ecological value. Restoring a network of habitats will promote the movement of flora and fauna across the landscape and improve the resilience of ecosystems.

The LNRS will enable informed decisions to be made on the type and location of environmental initiatives across the region to maximise environmental outcomes in the most ecologically strategic locations. This links to the delivery of BNG, particularly when deciding where off-site BNG should be delivered.

The establishment of habitat banks located in the NRN and of a landscape scale are expected to provide the most meaningful and sustainable increase in biodiversity across the country, as they allow for a whole ecosystem approach to nature recovery and are designed with a long-term, comprehensive habitat management and monitoring plan. Fundamentally, the primary purpose of habitat banks is to support increased biodiversity, though it is worth noting that they will also contribute to wider ecosystem services such as improved soil quality, water attenuation, air quality improvement, amenity value, etc.

Entering the BNG market

A critical question for landowners and investors is whether a BNG scheme is a commercially attractive proposition. This is a complex subject and requires consideration to the costs involved from scheme set-up through to long-term implementation as well as an understanding of expected gross revenues.

As Natural England provides more guidance on the regulation and implementation of BNG, and we build our experience in its implementation, we have developed a more thorough understanding not only of the practical delivery costs but also the legal and administrative costs involved.

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Lisa Bulmer

Associate, Natural Capital

Outgoing and goal orientated, Lisa thrives on bringing about impactful change through natural capital and sustainable investment work.

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Lower Valley Farm

Establishing a pioneering innovative biodiversity net gain initiative in South Cambridgeshire. Delivering significant environmental outcomes at landscape scale while enabling local developers to secure biodiversity units ‘off-the-shelf’.

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Lower Valley Farm

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