Barratt Developments’ approach to embracing BNG mandates

2 May 2024 | 7 min read

Barratt Developments’ approach to embracing BNG mandates

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements have landed. Developers, local planning authorities, and homeowners alike must now all understand and implement key aspects of BNG. But before they can grapple with the particular details of BNG compliance, all stakeholders need a strong conceptual understanding.
That’s what Host Stephen Marland, AiDash Director of Product Innovation and Strategy, discussed with Helen Nyul, Group Head of Biodiversity at Barratt Developments, Plc, in a recent episode of Sustainability Superheroes.

With more than 20 years’ experience working on business and biodiversity strategies, Nyul spoke about the purpose of BNG beyond simply adhering to regulations, as well as how to engage stakeholders and ensure the positive effects of BNG decades hence.

Watch a recording of the live event or read on for 3 key takeaways.

Takeaway 1: Start with the larger purpose of BNG in mind, not just regulatory compliance

Although BNG presents specific regulations that builders must understand and abide by, the purpose of BNG is to promote the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. That context is crucial from the very beginning of any project.

“Protecting that biodiversity, not chipping away at it, as much as we possibly can, is a key way to reverse that trend [of biodiversity loss],” says Nyul. “And then putting back more than what you had in the first place is obviously going to help us start leveling that trajectory, and hopefully sending it into an upward curve as well.”

Crucial to this is truly considering the impact on biodiversity when you evaluate a site. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking only about offsets as a way to get what you want.

Biodiversity offsets are certainly part of the picture, but that can’t be your first move. You have to think about what’s important for the site.

“We’ve got to think about biodiversity first, and then think about how many plots you can get onto that site,” says Nyul.

“So, if you’re thinking that you’re going in, and this site’s got the ability to put 1,500 houses on it, you’re still thinking about it the wrong way. You’ve got to think, ‘What’s the impact to the biodiversity? Where do we want to avoid? What’s left? Okay, how many houses can we get on that?’”

Offsets, she says, should be contributing to the expansion of wildlife habitats. If a site plan doesn’t easily get to that 10% net gain, that constraint presents an opportunity to start conversation projects. If you take the offset gains, you lose the ability to potentially create great spaces on a site.

Further, on a practical note, Nyul emphasizes that the earlier in the process you think about these things, the more cost-effective projects are.

“You just cannot retrofit biodiversity net gain schemes into development,” says Nyul. “It’s not good for biodiversity, and it’s not good for a business’ bottom line, either.”

Takeaway 2: Get all stakeholders involved, educated, and bought in early, and continue communicating

BNG isn’t just a change for developers—it’s a change for homeowners, landowners, contractors, management companies, and local planning authorities, too.

“Collaboration is key to all of this, for sure,” says Nyul. “There’s definitely a diversity within the sectors, and that collaboration is going to be fundamental to a successful net gain project.”

You need to make these projects work for all stakeholders. A lot of that comes from education about the goals and benefits of BNG, and also how it can benefit each group of stakeholders, specifically. Ongoing communication is critical, too.

At Barratt Developments, Nyul says they make sure the guidance they produce is appropriate for each of the function groups in their company, and they continue having regular conversations as changes come along.

And instead of creating a landscape plan and hanging it over to a management company, they get those companies involved earlier. It only makes sense, because the management companies are the ones who have to deliver on the plans, anyway.

Local planning authority capacity can be a barrier, Nyul says, but there are things you can do to mitigate that, like getting your consultants involved as early as possible.

It’s key for all involved to understand that homeowners are the custodians of these sites. They’re the ones who live with the positive BGN changes, like orchards, meadows grass, and other ecology-boosting innovations. That requires awareness-building, so the homeowners really understand those benefits.

“I also believe in finding the right business case, actually, to motivate a business into action,” notes Nyul. “Finding that business case is important beyond legislation, making sure that the solution fits seamlessly into that business, and it becomes business as usual.”

Takeaway 3: Plan for the future, from the beginning

The point of BNG is to create a better future for the planet, so it does little good to enact plans that don’t have a long-lasting impact and aren’t sustainable over decades.

That’s partially why it’s important to think beyond simply meeting a regulatory requirement. This approach demands a more circumspect approach from all parties.

“Whatever plans that we pass on to our homeowners — our biodiversity game plans, that long-term 30-year look at our development — we need to make sure that it’s actually achievable, and that it’s right for that area, as well.”

Here are some best practices to that end:

  • Look beyond the immediate location for planning, as biodiversity and policy mature.
  • Ensure habitats you import fit the local ecosystem (considering soil samples, locate climate, etc.).
  • Identify who will provide long-term monitoring of a site (when you submit the BNG game plan).
  • Use monitoring (remote surveying initially, then remote sensing) to ensure that the right systems are in place, and make improvements or changes as needed.
  • Understand impacts and mitigations, and as well TNFD-related risks and requirements on the horizon.

To learn more about Barratt Developments and their commitment to sustainable building practices in communities, watch the video of the live event  here.

To get more information about AiDash BNGAI and how it can help you with your BNG projects, click here.

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