A recent article in The Conversation said that although the 2021 Environment Act made it mandatory (after a two-year transition) for most new developments in England to achieve a biodiversity net gain, there are concerns that the policy contains loopholes and will be nearly impossible to enforce. The government is now consulting on how to implement the legislation.
The idea is that in order to get planning permission, any new development will need to assess the biodiversity value of the site before construction, using a biodiversity metric that accounts for the size, conservation value and condition of different habitats at the site. Developers also have to demonstrate that their actions will lead to overall biodiversity value rising by at least 10% after the project is completed.
10% seems risibly small especially when developing low-grade agricultural land. A developer can buy offsets to get round the rules. The researchers say that when it comes to realising real-world benefits for nature, the devil is in the detail. This accords with my own local experience of biodiversity gain through development. A few trees go a long way.
They have written an open letter to ministers highlighting the problems, and suggesting concrete proposals for how they can be addressed.
I wonder how all this will play out in the DfE's national education nature park idea. Does anyone know?