The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) says that it the biodiversity net gain legislation, which comes into force next week, should apply not just to builders and developers but materials producers too, since materials are a major part of construction’s environmental impact.
However, well the CIOB welcomes the new rules designed to protect and enhance nature, it says that a skills shortage leaves the industry unprepared to meet its new responsibilities.
On 12th February 2024 legislation will come into force that means major development (unless otherwise exempt, such as HS2) will have to deliver net gains for biodiversity leading to positive outcomes for nature, better places for local communities and more consistent and transparent requirements for developers. The legislation will apply to smaller developments from April 2024.
Research published by the government suggests that only 5% of local planning authorities feel their current ecological resource is adequate to scrutinise all applications that might affect biodiversity and less than 10% feel that their expertise and resources will be adequate to deliver BNG.
Amanda Williams, head of environmental sustainability at the CIOB, said: “This important legislation has been a long time coming so after a number of delays I’m glad it has finally come into force. I accept those delays and lack of a clear timeline has left many in the built environment sector feeling underprepared to successfully deliver biodiversity net gain, but I fear more delays could have resulted in the legislation being scrapped altogether, which would be a big step backwards for reducing construction’s impact on the environment.
“It will take time for our industry to adapt to the complex new legislation and understanding will need to be shown by regulators, particularly while there continues to be a shortage of experts such as ecologists to factor biodiversity net gain into project plans, deliver it and monitor success. CIOB has long called for a green skills strategy to address this and other skills shortages in areas such as retrofitting and without recruiting, training and retaining these specialists, biodiversity net gain, along with net zero will not be achieved.
“In my view the role communities can play in delivering biodiversity net gain is being overlooked and I’d urge project teams to involve them and draw on their knowledge and experience of local habitats and wildlife which can prove invaluable. According to the 2023 State of Nature Report, The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth and there’s a responsibility on us all to work together to turn that around.
“Looking into the future, the current biodiversity net gain legislation does not address construction’s full impact on nature as it excludes the production and processing of construction materials, such as timber, sand, and minerals including gravel, iron ore and rocks, and how they affect biodiversity. The embodied biodiversity impacts of a project, i.e. the impacts on biodiversity resulting from the processes that take place throughout a material’s lifecycle, from extraction to end of life disposal, are not covered by the current rules and this is something that in time will need to be addressed.”
The CIOB’s concern about lack of resources to manage the biodiversity net gain requirements is shared by the British Property Federation (BPF).
“The property sector has a huge role to play in protecting and restoring nature, and many developers are already delivering biodiversity net gain (BNG) across their existing assets and new developments,” said BPF assistant director Rob Wall.
“The new mandatory BNG regulations will place an additional burden on already over-stretched local authority planning departments. This is why we are calling on government to set out a new long-term strategy for resourcing the planning system to ensure that planning departments have the capacity and capability to deliver on all fronts including on BNG.”