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There is still time to build in biodiversity

May 22, 2023 is the ‘International Day for Biological Diversity’ and as one of the strongest supporters for biodiversity net gain (BNG), which was included in the Environment Act 2021, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) would like to caution that the strategy is focusing too broadly on habitats and not enough on biodiversity.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said:

 “It is inescapable that the UK’s biodiversity has decreased over the decades and therefore today is another opportunity to raise our concerns that the UK’s biodiversity strategy is one focused on habitats, rather than biodiversity. However, with some small tweaks around the built environment which ‘builds in biodiversity’, the Government could create a world leading biodiversity strategy and build on its recent successes, such as those seen in marine environments.”

Currently, the BNG strategy, which seeks to increase biodiversity by ten percent from a baseline measured before development begins, is one of habitats or offsite taxation, not biodiversity. This means smaller sites, which need to maximise build out to be viable, will either lose homes to install arbitrary habitats or pay a tax for habitats to be delivered elsewhere.

There is another way, which involves ‘building in biodiversity’; a topic the NFB’s head of housing and planning policy, Rico Wojtulewicz, has been lobbying for over a period of six years and discussed with the Environment Bill committee in March 2020.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the NFB and House Builders Association (HBA). said: “The Governments February 2023 BNG consultation response suggested site design and building fabric solutions might be added to BNG metric calculation, as green roofs have now been. However, unless it implements them soon, SME housebuilders will be hit hardest by the policy and we will have wasted a chance to place biodiversity at the heart of new developments.

What the NFB has asked for is simple. Extend the small sites metric to fifty homes. Trial onsite and fabric solutions as part of that metric. Pave a pathway to include local species. Test the outcomes. How that might look in practice are developments with raised fences for wildlife corridors, street lights with spectrums to not disturb local food chains, such as insects, and appropriate, maintainable bird or bat boxes. The data for local species is already out there, so the opportunity to do this is within reach.

HBA members remain ready to offer their sites for trials and if successful, which international examples in Finland and Germany suggest it would be, that knowledge will not only ensure new development are part of, rather than a barrier to wildlife corridors, but ensure offsite solutions are more tailored to local need, while unlocking a marketplace for ecological innovation. We cannot waste this opportunity.”

For more information please contact: Rico Wojtulewicz Head of housing and planning policy – rico.wojtulewicz@builders.org.uk

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