UK Housing Development Rule Aims for Biodiversity Net Gain

Kidbrooke Village housing development, which adopted the Biodiversity Net Gain requirements

(Credit: uk.gov)

by | Feb 14, 2024

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The United Kingdom has established a new rule requiring new major housing developments to deliver at least a 10% benefit for nature, reportedly making it the first country to make biodiversity net gain mandatory by law.

The government is also making $13.3 million available to help local authorities recruit ecologists and green jobs required to create wildlife-positive habitats alongside housing developments. The 10% requirement will be determined by a statutory biodiversity metric, which will calculate how many units a habitat contains before development takes place, and then will determine how many of those units will be made “biodiversity units” as development proceeds.

Requirement Contributes to Effort to Address Species Decline

The new requirement is a part of the country’s Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) initiative, a commitment to halt species decline by 2030.

According to the United Nations, over 1 million animal and plant species are currently at risk of extinction, contributing to the potential for ecosystem collapse. However, bold conservation efforts may set the natural world on a path to recovery. The level of action needed to change the trajectory of biodiversity loss will reportedly require policy measures, such as this new U.K. ruling.

“Biodiversity Net Gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live,” said U.K. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow. “This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”

Biodiversity Rules Include On- and Off-site Habitats, Monitoring

The requirements will apply to new planning applications rather than existing ones, although the government said that many developers were already successfully implementing BNG rules. The regulations offer a range of options for developers, including the use of on-site biodiversity units, off-site units, or statutory biodiversity credits, available as a last resort from the U.K.

Examples of existing BNG developments include Trumpington Meadows, a blend of housing, a country park, and a nature reserve, and Woodberry Wetlands, a development created around a reservoir that supports a nearby wetland ecosystem.

The program is also meant to account for long-term ecosystem management to ensure lasting environmental benefits. The BNG requires a legal agreement with a local authority or other responsible body to monitor habitat improvements over a 30-year period.

If unable to achieve on-site or off-site biodiversity requirements, developers may purchase biodiversity credits from landowners via private markets. This is emphasized as a last-resort option as the program aims to bring natural landscapes to towns and cities and support wildlife in those areas of the country.

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