The RTPI has recently published advice for planners in association with the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, responding to the decline in biodiversity within the UK. The advice outlines obligations and opportunities to promote biodiversity through the UK planning system with multiple examples of its implementation detailed throughout. Going forwards, the emphasis should be on integrating biodiversity into local policy and developments. The document is a must read and provides examples as to what developers can be expected to provide in the near future.
But why does biodiversity needs to be considered within the planning process? To date, the policy of no net loss of biodiversity has been utilised, though seemingly unsuccessfully. Biodiversity has fallen in the UK and thus LPAs need to address legal and policy requirements for biodiversity and take a lead on these issues. Changes in planning policy can actively promote biodiversity enhancements including Biodiversity Net Gain.
Adopting a strategic planning approach is suggested within the guidance, which should be ‘collaborative, ecosystem-based and landscape-scale planning’. The “joined up thinking” approach is nothing new, however is essential to create long lasting and sustainable habitats and ecosystems.
Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) need to work collaboratively with other LPAs, and partners, such as through Local Nature Partnerships and Local Biodiversity Partnerships. Examples of this include Berkshire Local Nature Partnerships collaboration with the LPAs to identify areas where there is a greater opportunity for habitat creation and restoration. This will in turn work towards bigger, better and more joined up habitats. Within the north west, the Mersey Forest Partnership involves seven local authorities, landowners, Natural England, and local and national businesses. The partnership manages the Mersey Forest and helps bring benefits to not only wildlife and biodiversity, but the local community and economy.
Developer requirements regarding biodiversity are detailed within the standing advice including the requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain, Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and Ecological Impact Assessments. The Environmental Bill for England now includes a new requirement for ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’. This is now being incorporated into local planning policy and will become mandatory by 2021.
Biodiversity Net Gain is essentially a calculation of the increase in biodiversity on a site as a result of development. An ecological survey is undertaken to establish baseline conditions of the site, and the existing level of biodiversity. The DEFRA metric is then utilised to calculate the difference between value before development, and after development based on landscaping masterplans.
A 10% increase is required for most developments and developers will be expected to maintain any habitat creation or enhancement for a minimum of 30 years. If net gain can’t be achieved on site, offsite compensation may be required.
Currently, not all LPAs request net gain calculations, however planners and developers should be aware that net gain will be mandated by 2021, and in the meantime more and more schemes require net gain. As a responsible developer, all schemes should look to adopt net gain where possible.
E3P keep up to date with local and national policy providing clients with accurate and up to date advice. We are experienced in producing Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments and calculations working with clients to ensure a 10% gain is achieved in a pragmatic manner. We also produce detailed and comprehensive Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, to inform clients on design constraints or further surveys required, and Ecological Impact Assessments to support planning applications.
The following links to the full RTPI Biodiversity in Planning Document: