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Taking the OMG out of BNG and NN: Finding ecological solutions to the housing problem

Event date: October 07, 2021

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Thursday, 7 October, 12:30–13:15

Many housing developers currently see the requirements for biodiversity net gain (BNG), an increase in habitats and species, and nutrient neutrality (NN), no rise in the nutrient burden on our more sensitive watercourses, as major stumbling blocks to their building proposals. It is almost as if environmentalists are going out of their way to find new and inventive methods to stop houses from being built. While the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has recently suggested that nature-based solutions – essentially creating sufficient habitat to resolve both issues –  will not solve the problem, because they require too much land and will be too expensive, we believe that a mix of on- and off-site measures, allied to a natural-capital funding approach, can provide the solution.

In this webinar, Matt Wainhouse, Principal Ecologist at Nature Positive and RSK Wilding, will explain what BNG and NN are and why they are such important initiatives if we are to reverse the trends of catastrophic biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. Perhaps more importantly, he will then suggest solutions to the seemingly intractable conflict between the ‘rock’ of BNG and NN and the ‘hard place’ of housebuilding. Carefully designing housing projects to avoid the loss of more valuable habitats and including more species-rich environments within the scheme footprints will greatly reduce the number of biodiversity units that need to be created elsewhere. And if a proportion of this new habitat can be part of a sustainable drainage system (SuDS), that will not only help with the BNG calculations but also with the NN issue. Furthermore, where additional habitat does need to be created elsewhere to offset any residual impacts, the potential exists for this to generate an income (associated with other natural-capital benefits, such as carbon offsetting or flood mitigation), which could help with the overall viability of schemes.

This is certainly not a straightforward issue, not least because BNG, NN and natural capital are all relatively recent approaches that are not yet fully tried and tested. However, we believe that a collaborative approach to resolving the issues, involving local authorities and the environmental regulators alongside the housebuilders and their consultants, can find a route through the current impasse.

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