Rewild thing: Building biodiversity ‘net gain’

January 28, 2021

RSK Wilding Managing Director, Jon Davies, has spoken with Construction Manager about the new environmental legislation that will mandate the delivery of a 10% biodiversity net gain for many construction projects. The Environment Act will apply to developers seeking planning consent on both new builds and refurbishments.

In many cases, Jon explains, this 10% biodiversity net gain will not be achievable on site, and developers will instead have to look to offsetting. This can be done locally, or further afield; but the further the offsetting is from its source, the less value it has. This is largely to encourage local authorities to make sure that they do not see a net decrease in biodiversity in their area.

However, offsetting can be pricey, and it can be challenging to replicate like-for-like habitats. Developers could instead, suggests Jon, look at rewilding to meet the necessary biodiversity net gain. “It’s a term often associated with reintroduction of animals like beavers and even wolves but is more commonly a ‘ground-up’ approach, creating the conditions for the land to regenerate itself naturally and be recolonised by insects and plants,” he explains. Recently formed RSK Wilding is one business that could help companies to deliver this. The first stage is to ensure that the land is suitable for rewilding, which could mean stripping topsoil, undulating the terrain, and blocking drains in moorland to re-wet the peat. The land is then left to its own devices – to ‘rewild’ – while ecologists monitor progress and ensure that it is meeting the biodiversity net gain targets. This is usually carried out over a period of 20 to 30 years.

But where would developers find land they could use for such rewilding? “There are many landowners, particularly farmers, who are keen to carry out rewilding work on land that is unproductive and difficult to making a living from,” continues Jon. “Rewilding has the potential to become an important income stream for farmers, especially given the uncertainty around agricultural subsidies post-Brexit.”

You can read the article in full on the Construction Manager website.