In the midst of all the current uncertainty, the Chancellor’s Spring Statement yesterday offered welcome assurance that the Government is sticking to its guns when it comes to improving the natural environment.
Across the UK, wildlife is declining at an alarming rate with more than half of all species becoming rarer and 15% at risk of disappearing all together. Among the principal causes for this loss is poorly planned development, which can create wildlife deserts in our towns and cities and further losses in the wider countryside.
Whilst existing law means that local governments and developers have to take steps to avoid or, at the least, compensate for any loss of wildlife, up until now these rules have only served to minimise damage.
The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the principle of ‘net gain’ to be embedded in the planning process for some time. Net gain is a measurable, overall increase in biodiversity within a development or beyond its boundaries. Importantly, this should be on top of, not instead of, meeting existing requirements. The aim of this new approach is to move beyond simply protecting what wildlife is left; making more space for nature and creating the connections that can help wildlife recover and survive. If done properly, new developments can also help to create wonderful, appealing places to live, where people are able to enjoy and connect with the natural world around them.