Planners and landowners join forces for biodiversity gain

Posted by LindaStenner on November 3, 2020

Planners and landowners join forces for biodiversity gain

November 03, 2020 at 2:35 PM

Farmers and landowners could have a key role in meeting biodiversity obligations of developers as new rules make the environment a priority for planners in the future.

The proposed Environment Bill introduces a new obligation on developers to achieve a biodiversity gain objective, more generally known as biodiversity net gain. This is a firm legal obligation with compliance to be measured using a new system – the Defra Biodiversity Metric.

“However, developers will be able to buy their way out of the obligation opening up a great opportunity for farmers and landowners to be paid to provide the biodiversity gain on their farms,” said Kathryn Williams, Director at Davis Meade Property Consultants.

The draft bill will add a new schedule to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 making biodiversity gain a condition of planning permission in England (clause 90 of the bill).

The bill will set up a biodiversity gain site register and enable the purchase of biodiversity credits in lieu of providing biodiversity gain itself.

Each development site will have a before and after biodiversity value and the value after development must be 10 per cent higher than before.

Defra has produced a biodiversity metric to measure the physical state of a site dividing habitat into three categories; spatial, hedges and rivers/waterways. All three categories must be 10 per cent higher after development of the site.

“The developer will have to produce a biodiversity gain plan which must be approved by the local planning authority before development can start,” said Kathryn.

“The plan may show that biodiversity credits have been purchased from government to the amount needed to satisfy the biodiversity gain obligation.

“When it comes to meeting these obligations it may be cheaper to buy them offsite than on site, maybe on a neighbouring farm.”   

The gain has to be secured for at least 30 years and, to enable this, Part 7 of the draft environment bill introduces Conservation covenants under which positive obligations may become obligatory on new owners as well as restrictive covenants.

“The question now is how we put a value on these biodiversity credits and how will they operate in reality,” Kathryn said.

With uncertainty surrounding future farm payment support and the complexity of the proposed Government funded environmental schemes; providing a site for biodiversity net gain through a private tailored agreement, could be a valuable alternative income source to farmers and landowners.

“Deals will have to be made after the Environment Bill becomes law and therefore at Davis Meade we are now encouraging landowners and occupiers to get ahead of the curve and register their interest and landholdings on our Biodiversity Net Gain database, in readiness for future presentation to developers,” she said.

“Initial registration is free of charge.”

For more information and to register your interest please contact our Oswestry office on 01691 659 658 or oswestry@dmpcuk.com

 

 

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