The government will use the forthcoming environment bill to mandate biodiversity net gain for development in England, ensuring that the delivery of infrastructure and housing does not compromise biodiversity.
In his Spring Statement in mid-March, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond unveiled a number of new environmental initiatives covering housing, aviation, biodiversity, and energy efficiency.
Green built UK: rising environmental concerns
With regards to housing, alongside a package of plans announced elsewhere in the Statement to tackle the UK’s chronic housing shortage, the Chancellor responded to rising environmental concerns by calling for a series of green policies that will help British homes use less high-carbon gas and place an economic obligation on protecting the environment.
Based on the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)’s recommendation on the need to reinforce building efficiency standards, which warned UK homes fell well short of standards needed to meet climate targets, the Chancellor said he would embrace the CCC’s advice.
Of particular note is a commitment to end the use of fossil fuel heating systems in new homes from 2025 under a ‘Future Homes Standard’, with green alternatives such as heat pumps instead being installed as standard in all new homes, while building on the Prime Minister’s pledge of 2018 to halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030.
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has welcomed the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.
Green built UK: biodiversity net gain
The Chancellor confirmed plans to require developers to deliver a “biodiversity net gain” for new domestic and commercial buildings.
Under the programme, potential development sites will be ranked according to their current environmental importance, with developers then required to demonstrate an enhancement in biodiversity by planting more trees, for example, or creating green corridors to protect wildlife habitats.
Where green improvements cannot be made, developers will be liable to fund habitat protection and restoration schemes elsewhere in the country. Some developers already follow a biodiversity net gain approach willingly, and the recent open letter to the Chancellor, signed by leading construction and property businesses and coordinated by UKGBC in collaboration with GreenerUK, highlighted the importance of this issue and their call for legally binding environmental targets.
It appears the government may use the forthcoming environment bill to mandate a biodiversity net gain for development in England, ensuring that the delivery of infrastructure and housing does not compromise biodiversity.