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New rules requiring developers to replace wildlife habitats destroyed during construction projects could provide an opportunity for farmers. After years of proposals, the Biodiversity... Biodiversity Net Gain is ‘opportunity for farmers’

New rules requiring developers to replace wildlife habitats destroyed during construction projects could provide an opportunity for farmers.

After years of proposals, the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) policy came into effect on 12 February. It means developments of 10 or more dwellings must deliver at least 10% improvement in wildlife habitat than there was before the development took place.

David Hill, who pioneered the concept of BNG, said he welcomed the implementation of the BNG framework.Professor Hill is past president of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and chaiman of the Environment Bank.

Vital investment

“From now on, almost all development will be required to comply with BNG. This much-needed and transformative legislation will deliver vital investment to the natural environment, restoring ecosystems and building resilience against the effects of climate change.

“It was in 2004 that I first suggested that all development should be required to create gains for nature as a result of the development activity. I have promoted the concept of BNG for nearly 20 years, establishing Environment Bank to obtain land to put into nature.”

Describing the implementation of BNG as a game-changer, Prof Hill said it could be a big benefit for farmers. “With farming families facing innumerable challenges, the mandating of BNG means a diversified income stream for farmers.”

The model favoured by Environment Bank involves leasing land to preserve and restore natural ecosystems. Farmers and landowners retain ownership and management of the land, receiving tax-efficient annual payments of up to £60,000 per year, secured for 30 years.

The Biodiversity Units from these Habitat Banks are then raised for developers, with Environment Bank taking all liability for their delivery. This helps developers meet their BNG requirements – now mandated in law from this month – while supporting nature restoration at scale.