A biodiversity net gain consultant is an expert in ensuring development and construction projects are designed to leave the environment in a better state than it would have been without the project. They work with developers and local councils to ensure that habitats and ecosystems are protected during the planning stages of any build and that a plan is put in place for how biodiversity loss will be mitigated. This is done through detailed site surveys and assessments carried out by licenced ecologists.
Biodiversity Net Gain is an increasingly common requirement for developments and construction projects to undergo during the planning stage. Until recently, this was a requirement that was requested by local planning authorities, but with the recent introduction of the Environment Act 2021 it has become mandatory for developers in England to demonstrate that their plans will benefit nature in a measurable way before they can receive planning permission.
Often a biodiversity net gain assessment will include an on-site habitat creation and enhancement plan to off-set any losses of high value habitats within the project site. This may be achieved by removing invasive species, planting new trees or grasslands, improving soil quality and creating a network of wildlife corridors. In addition to the habitat creation, a BNG plan may also recommend methods for monitoring and reporting to the local authority.
As with an ecology survey, the BNG process begins with a physical inspection of the development site to identify the existing biodiversity and any features that are likely to be lost due to the proposed scheme. The ecologist will then produce a report containing the results of the BNG assessment and recommend the next steps that should be taken to reach the required biodiversity net gain. Often this will involve a series of bespoke habitat restoration surveys, a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and/or a Protected Species Survey.
A qualified biodiversity net gain consultant will have a strong working knowledge of the National Planning Policy Framework, local nature recovery strategies, biodiversity units and the mitigation hierarchy to ensure that all requirements are met during the planning process. They will also have an in-depth understanding of the different ways that biodiversity net gain can be achieved, including onsite offsetting and habitat creation. In many cases, a biodiversity net gain consultant will be able to simultaneously undertake an ecology survey on-site and conduct the necessary habitat restoration or offsetting works as part of their assessment. This is a cost-effective and time-efficient way to ensure that a site will meet its required BNG standards.