The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the House of Commons in the UK has published its first report on the state of biodiversity. This highlights that the UK has the lowest level of biodiversity of all the G7 countries, and clearly there is much work to do if we are to meet the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan.
The launch of the Biodiversity Metric 3.0 included a suite of new tools designed to address feedback from ecological professionals and designed to support the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to expand net gain approaches to deliver wider benefits for people and nature from development.
At the launch, Natural England chair Tony Juniper said:
“Investing in Nature’s recovery is a vital national priority. These innovative new tools will help advance that ambition via the development planning process, ensuring we leave the natural environment – both terrestrial and marine – in a measurably better state than it was before… As well as benefiting nature, biodiversity net gain can also give greater access to nature where people live and work and can streamline the planning process by objectively and transparently quantifying any losses and gains in biodiversity.”
Biodiversity Metric 3.0 will become the industry standard biodiversity metric for all on-land and intertidal development types in England, becoming a requirement for ecological consultants, developers, local planning authorities, land owners and more through the landmark Environment Bill.
There are some key changes to the metric from the 2.0 version, which most ecologists agree, should help in the delivery of meaningful benefits to biodiversity. Some of the key changes include:
- The Condition Assessment Method has been overhauled to help simplify the assessment of existing and proposed habitat quality
- A new GIS tool has been launched enabling bulk data import to assist in measuring and sharing spatial data
- Various habitat-specific changes such as removal of certain habitats, approach to assessing woodlands and intertidal habitats
- Advanced creation / enhancement of habitats; new functionality allows the ‘time to target’ condition multiplier to be reduced to reflect advanced habitat creation
A full comparison document is available on the NE Access to Evidence website.
APEM’s BNG and Natural Capital offering was greatly strengthened by the arrival of Anna Kilty, Principal Consultant – Natural Capital & Biodiversity Net Gain in March and more recently, Jill Simpson – Associate Director (Terrestrial Ecology).
Anna joined APEM from the Environment Agency, her experience and strategic regulatory background has been pivotal in applying BNG and natural capital principals to real world scenarios for clients.
Also launched on the 7th July was the Small Sites Metric (SSM), a beta version designed to simplify the process of calculating BNG on smaller development sites. The Small Sites Metric is a streamlined version of the Biodiversity Metric 3.0. It is intended for use only on small development sites which do not contain any high or very high distinctiveness habitats and is intended to be used by a competent person such as a professional terrestrial ecologist. The Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool (EBNT) was also launched to give developers a way of exploring the benefits habitats bring to people, such as improvements to water quality, flood management services and carbon storage.
Whilst the tools are not mandatory and are still in their beta phase, they are a welcome aid in the fight to measure and ultimately restore biodiversity loss. APEM will utilise them to support clients to deliver thriving natural spaces for local communities maximising the benefit of BNG plans to get the best investment in nature. A government consultation on biodiversity net gain secondary legislation and regulations is due to launch later this year.