Tom Beeley advises landowners to promote biodiversity


A natural capital expert has highlighted the opportunities for landowners to diversify into high- quality habitat provision services in light of a long-planned government policy being given the green light.

Tom Beeley, Senior Associate at leading property consultancy Fisher German, is advising landowners to explore opportunities for biodiversity offsetting after Defra announced the implementation date for its Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) policy to help improve natural habitats in England.

BNG will become mandatory for new developments across England on Monday, February 12, and means most developments will need to demonstrate at least a 10 per cent increase in biodiversity unless otherwise exempt.

Developers can achieve this in a number of ways – by creating habitat directly on the development site, through offsetting projects on separate land projects, or by purchasing statutory credits for the Government.

Tom is already seeing the development of a market for habitat offsetting in anticipation of mandatory BNG going live, and Fisher German has helped facilitate this market through The Green Offset – an online platform which aims to match landowners with developers looking for suitable land for habitat enhancement and is working with several clients exploring habitat creation opportunities.

Now BNG has an implementation date, Tom expects this market to expand further as more developments are captured and the need for offsetting grows.

He said: “A date finally being set for BNG to go live is good news and should help to grow and clarify this market. BNG is already driving interest in rural land and demand for offsetting amongst developers.

“Developers must increase biodiversity by at least 10 per cent, and some local planning authorities may demand more. The increase is measured through Defra’s ‘Biodiversity Metric’, which looks at habitat type, size, distinctiveness, and condition to determine a ‘habitat value’ of land.

“A 10 per cent gain in biodiversity can be difficult to achieve within a development site boundary land, so developers will need to consider the impact of BNG and many will be looking to secure offsetting to meet the requirements of BNG.

“This creates an opportunity for landowners to be paid to provide high-quality, long-term habitat offsetting. Those willing and able to enter into long-term agreements to manage land in a way which can demonstrate an uplift in habitat value can generate new income.

“This can include the creation of new habitat on existing agricultural land, such as converting poor performing arable land into grassland, or improving the management of existing habitats such as permanent pasture or woodland to enhance the ecological condition.

“Location is important, with sites which improve the interconnectedness of habitats scoring more highly through the offset calculations.”

While optimistic about how BNG could result in high-quality habitat creation schemes coming forward, Tom also cautioned that the market surrounding BNG and habitat creation is new, with several uncertainties.

“Landowners considering providing habitat for BNG should consider that these are long term, legally binding projects with significant complexity,” he added.

“Whilst values paid for habitat offsetting are seemingly attractive, there are significant costs in long- term delivery and the market remains uncertain.

“Overall, BNG represents a step change in how habitat provision is delivered and funded and should result in significant market change. There remain questions over how BNG will operate in practice, and we should expect policy to evolve as developers, landowners, local authorities, and other stakeholders work through the process.

“However, there is no doubt that for some landowners, BNG represents a good opportunity for diversification and means of delivering environmental projects. We would encourage anyone interested in exploring this new market to contact Fisher German and speak to our natural capital team who have first-hand experience of working through BNG projects.”

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