Biodiversity net gain principles to be revised

28th February 2020

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This year marks an important year for biodiversity net gain (BNG). Several projects are being developed that will help to embed BNG as a credible approach to addressing the biodiversity losses that can occur during the development process.

Starting with the theory and practice of BNG, we will see a review of IEMA, the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management's (CIEEM) joint document Biodiversity Net Gain: Good Practice Principles for Development. This was pioneering when it was first published in 2016, and all three organisations have committed to review it as practice evolves, to ensure it withstands the test of time.

We have been working on this review since late last year, consulting members through a webinar, survey and workshop. We are now updating the text and will be publishing a revision in the next few months.

Last year IEMA, CIRIA and CIEEM released a practical guide to BNG, and the past year has also seen the development of a new BSI standard for BNG. Standards provide clarity on what is required for good practice to be demonstrated and audited against. IEMA is represented on the project committee and, along with others, has been ensuring that the standard reflects the principles and guidance.

The final part of the jigsaw is the UK government's Environment Bill, which is expected to be enacted around the end of the year. The Bill is wide ranging and affects a huge depth and breadth of environmental legislation and management. One component is a requirement for all new developments in England under the Town and Country Planning Act to achieve BNG.

Although limited in scope, the BNG provisions in the Bill are detailed and comprehensive. We believe the Bill is reasonably well aligned with the principles, good practice guidance and the emerging British standard. Nevertheless, where the Bill falls short, IEMA will be pushing for amendments to ensure that BNG achieves its stated purpose of leaving the environment in a better place following development.

What came up during the revision of the principles?

As part of the review process for the BNG principles, IEMA, CIEEM and CIRIA members were asked questions relating to possible changes to the principles. The changes consulted on did not seek to change the fundamental building blocks of BNG. They included clarification of the language used to describe how to step through the mitigation hierarchy, or address risks. We also made decisions on how much to include England-specific examples, or to name current approaches that may become outdated. Thanks to everyone who has contributed; we look forward to publishing the revised principles in the next few months.

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