Getting the most biodiversity bang for your buck

December 09, 2020

RSK Wilding Managing Director Steph Wray has spoken to Construction Index about how rewilding can help developers and housebuilders meet the conditions of the Environment Bill, which is due to pass into law in January 2021.

Although the Bill will prove challenging for developers, who must deliver a 10% biodiversity net gain on their sites, “the increasing need for biodiversity doesn’t have to become a problem for the construction sector,” Steph says.

One way in which to deliver this biodiversity requirement, suggests Steph, is through rewilding. The newly established RSK Wilding aims to help businesses do just that: to “offset their carbon emissions and ecological impacts while helping to reverse decades of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate impacts”. Rewilding can also help developers to think further than simply balancing a carbon equation: to delivering environmental net gain and ensuring that their project is sustainable.

Rewilding is not necessarily what you might first envision. “[It] isn’t just about bringing back wolves and beavers,” explains Steph. “What we’re really talking about is not imposing a particular direction on the development but letting natural ecological processes take over and for the community of plant, insect and bird life to develop naturally”.

Rewilded land, continues Steph, is also beneficial to the UK public: through cleaner air, cleaner water and through less flooding in residential areas if rewilded areas are used as a natural flood space. Developers should consider the multiple land uses available when purchasing land going forward: “If I were a house-builder I might be looking now at adding into my landbank not just land that I think is viable to build houses on, but also land that I think is marginal and I might want to do some of these other things on and offset my impacts,” she adds. By doing this, developers can adopt mitigation measures that are local to their site, ideally in the same county, and thus achieve true environmental new gain.

Although biodiversity awareness and legislation is increasing, this does not have to be bad news for house-builders. Even discovering a protected species, for example the great-crested newt, on-site does not necessarily put an end to, or significantly delay, a development. You can pay for offsetting and for suitable pond habitats to be created elsewhere and for those newts to be moved.

“I think, once we get used to it and contractors are familiar with it, they’re going to get the idea of how to get the most biodiversity bang for their buck,” Steph concludes.

You can read the article in full in the October/November 2020 issue of Construction Index pp.33-39.