New scheme could make developers help reverse wildlife damage and decline
The Wildlife Trusts call for all new developments to contribute to a Nature Recovery Network
The Government consultation into a new legal requirement which could make developers actively improve nature closed at the weekend. It is an attempt to help wildlife recover following the severe decline of over half our wild species in the last 50 years.
The new approach, known as ‘net gain,’ would ensure wildlife gets a better deal from new developments. It would mean that developers not only compensate and mitigate for any damaged caused to the natural world, they would have to measurably add to it and improve it – by creating additional new nature-friendly spaces that enable bees, butterflies, and birds to recover and thrive.
The Wildlife Trusts want developers to:
- Avoid damaging wild places by locating new buildings in the least harmful place – they must not simply pay a tariff giving them a licence to destroy
- Mitigate any damage that they cause and compensate if they cannot
- Be legally required to deliver ambitious, measurable gains for wildlife which are 20% above such compensation; these gains must be secured and managed in perpetuity*
Dr Sue Young, Head of Land Use Planning and Ecological Networks at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “The creation of local Nature Recovery Network maps will be critical to the success of net gain. These maps will show developers and decision makers where to avoid harm to the natural environment and where to actively contribute to its recovery by identifying the opportunities where we need to join-up fragmented places which are important for wild plants and animals. The Wildlife Trusts want these maps to be a legal requirement – the mechanism that will make net gain actually work.
“We want to see nature put at the heart of new developments, so that new homes are great for both people and wildlife. Imagine living in a house where swifts swoop over the garden, where the school ‘run’ is a walk alongside a wildflower meadow buzzing with bumblebees; where cycle paths wind past reed-fringed ponds dancing with dragonflies and where bird houses, bat boxes, tree-lined streets and hedgerows are part of the natural landscape, and your garden is a hedgehog highway. This should become the norm.
“There’s a huge challenge ahead – thousands of new houses are to be built yet we need to restore the natural world. We’re calling on developers to build beautiful, nature-friendly communities in the right places, creating and restoring more wild places than are destroyed or damaged by building.”
The Wildlife Trusts already influence thousands of planning applications every year, so that they benefit people and wildlife.
The government has yet to address net gain in the marine environment. There has been an explosion of off-shore development at sea over the past decade with further swathes planned. This provides potential opportunities for net gain, which could contribute towards nature’s recovery at sea.
Dr Sue Young, adds: “We’re very disappointed there are no signs that the net gain approach will apply to major infrastructure projects that are extremely damaging to our natural heritage. We’re calling on government to make a commitment to rectify this – so that every time a new road or large development such as HS2 is built, the same principles should apply.”