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Natural England Releases Three New Tools to Help Developers

On Wednesday 7th July 2021 Natural England launched three new tools, the updated Biodiversity Metric 3.0, a Small Sites Metric (SSM) and the Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool (EBNT).

The Biodiversity Metric and SSM both evaluate and account for nature losses and gains resulting from development as required by the proposed Environmental Bill.

The main changes in version 3.0 of the Biodiversity Metric are improved calculations to more accurately reflect habitat types, how they are connected to the wider landscape and what benefits they bring.

Flexibility for developers has been improved, with Natural England recognising that creation of habitats cannot always be completed immediately post construction. Conversely, new functionality has been introduced that recognises the benefit of creating or enhancing habitat in advance, with an increase in allotted Biodiversity Units (and therefore net gain) awarded for bringing forward the creation/enhancement of habitat in certain circumstances.

The updated Metric allows for enhancement of rivers by re-alignment and re-meandering, a previously un-enterable change, to provide a greater length of river enhanced than present at baseline. The updated Metric also recognises the ecological value of hedgerows with trees and therefore rewards their inclusion with higher Biodiversity Units.

The SSM provides a pared down version of the main Metric, suitable for smaller development sites where the construction zone or building footprint is less than 5,000 square metres (or 0.5 hectares), although the main Metric v3.0 is required if any priority habitats are present except hedgerows and arable margins. This SSM should speed up the process for the smaller developments.

The EBN tool has been developed to work alongside biodiversity net gain to enable wider benefits for people and nature from habitat change. Based on a similar process to the Metric, the EBNT identifies what ecosystem services will be affected by a particular development and how, for example, in the ten years post development the water supply and flood management services of a site may decrease, but the erosion protection, pollination and aesthetic value may increase. This will be a handy tool for explaining to stakeholders what benefits the chosen habitats bring.

The three new tools launched will provide increased confidence over habitat loss and gains, and what that means for biodiversity and people.

If you want to find out more about how our Ecology Team can support you, please contact us on 01904 715 470 or info@arcusconsulting.co.uk.