Am I working with an irreplaceable habitat?

8 Apr 2024 | 3 min read

Am I working with an irreplaceable habitat?

The UK’s biodiversity net gain policy is still evolving, and “irreplaceable habitats” is one of the most recently amended areas. Here’s a look at the current developer requirements concerning irreplaceable habitats per Environmental Protection, England, and Town and Country Planning, England.

What are irreplaceable habitats?

Irreplaceable habitats could be considered the crown jewels of the UK’s natural habitats. High in biodiversity, they are incredibly challenging, if not impossible to replicate. Even boosting biodiversity in these areas may be extremely difficult.

These habitats are the VIPs in the National Planning Policy Framework, meaning that any development negatively impacting them needs a rock-solid justification. BNG requirements add even more muscle to protect these areas.

What habitats are on the irreplaceable list?

Currently the irreplaceable habitat list includes:

  • Ancient woodland (all types)
  • Ancient and veteran trees
  • Mediterranean saltmarsh scrub
  • Lowland fens
  • Blanket bog
  • Limestone pavements
  • Coastal sand dunes
  • Spartina saltmarsh swards

How do I know if I’m working in or near an irreplaceable habitat?

As you ready the BNG application for your project, you’ll complete a required biodiversity baseline report. If you are working with AiDash, we will make use of dated satellite imagery, public and licensed datasets, and bespoke models to identify and map potential irreplaceable habitats on your project site. And this information is verified by an ecologist.

What is my responsibility regarding irreplaceable habitats?

Irreplicable habitats are included in the Statutory Biodiversity Metric calculation tool used to evaluate your development site but will not contribute to your baseline score unless they are enhanced as part of the post development action plan. Since these habitats would be impossible to recreate, post-development loss or creation of these habitats is not permitted within the standard metric calculations. However, irreplaceable habitats can still be enhanced though actions that improve the baseline condition and thus contribute positively to the 10% gain requirement.

Your biodiversity baseline report and work with the Statutory Biodiversity Metric calculation tool will flag proposed loss or degradation of irreplaceable habitats. In cases where such losses are foreseen, you will need to do one of the following:

  • Work directly with your local planning authority to agree on potential mitigation measures and bespoke compensation for impacts on irreplaceable habitats.
  • Rework plans to avoid the impact.

Stay tuned

Keep in mind that this is initial guidance. As noted above, further revisions that broaden the definition and list are expected through public consultation later this year. Check back with the AiDash BNG compliance portal — BNGAI — often for updates.





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