BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN - RURAL LANDOWNERS IN A STRONG POSITION
Mandating a Biodiversity Net Gain in all development is not only a positive environmental initiative, it should mean that landowners are well placed to enjoy financial rewards as well.
The Environment Bill currently making its way through Parliament includes the requirement that Biodiversity Net Gain becomes a condition of planning permission in England. All developments requiring planning consent will need to deliver a minimum of a 10% uplift in the value of biodiversity present on the site prior to the proposal. In short, where previously a development simply had to mitigate any biodiversity impact it may have created, it will need to add to biodiversity. This is potentially a serious challenge particularly to some of the larger and more urban centric developers.
Our clients at Rural Solutions should not, however, be overly concerned. The majority of schemes we promote on behalf of estate and farming clients are, to our minds, exemplars of how development should happen in the rural space. After all, enhancing biodiversity is fundamental to the way our rural clients think anyway.
The motivations for development in much of our day to day work is, of course, to be profitable, but to do so by building well and creating a legacy that will be lauded. This is not always the case with the larger housebuilders and developers, who are under pressure to answer to the shareholder and deliver a dividend. The rural landowning developer has different pressures. He or she must face the community in the pub and at the school gates. Furthermore, they drive past the project every day and so want to be proud of it.
Biodiversity Net Gain is always more achievable when there is some flexibility in the amount of land required for the scheme. The developer must make every inch pay. Generally, a landowner can be more flexible and release a more generous land holding. This gives the scheme appropriate room to breathe, good gardens and amenity achieving a genuine sense of place, a substantial Biodiversity Net Gain and ultimately a greater value.
This approach is reflected in the amount of our clients who decide to build out schemes themselves as opposed to simply selling a site with outline consent. Whilst a greater risk, landowners see that the control of design, space allocation means that they can not only earn more, but also leave a legacy that they can be proud of.