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BNG is a “win-win for nature, people and for businesses,” says Barratt’s Helen Nyul

by | 12 Feb 24 | Long Reads, Nature & Biodiversity

Kingsbrook near Aylesbury

Helen Nyul, group head of biodiversity, says how Barratt Developments PLC has been implementing biodiversity net gain before it became legislation today and, whilst it might be challenging, it’s now essential.

With UK wildlife facing decline, the newly-implemented biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations offer an opportunity for housebuilders to play a part in supporting and restoring nature.

At its heart it is a simple principle. For every new home built, developers must ensure nature is protected first. Where an impact on the environment cannot be avoided, they must create more habitats for nature than were there before.

This is a brilliant concept, and a win-win for nature, people and for businesses.

At Barratt, we see many benefits to incorporating biodiversity into our development designs. These not only help to minimise our ecological footprint but meet wider place-making and health and wellbeing benefits for our homeowners and the communities we build. Avoiding impacts to existing habitats creates mature landscape features, giving developments a sense of place and protects those homes for wildlife.

More broadly, biodiversity is fundamental to our health and wellbeing as well as a healthy society and functioning economy.

For Barratt, the new regulations will not affect our approach. Like many developers, nature has been part of our plans for many years.

There are numerous examples of nature-rich places across the country. For us, Kingsbrook near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire is a stand out example. It’s a wonderful place, a 2,450 home development, delivered in partnership with the RSPB and with ecology at its heart.

Fifty percent of the development incorporates green infrastructure, with three parks designed for both leisure and biodiversity. Boardwalks and carefully placed footpaths avoid disturbance to wildlife.

Fifty black poplar clones were planted by volunteers to reinvigorate this endangered species, and an outside amphitheatre will enable outside classrooms and local learning about nature for residents and local children. A protected 250-acre nature reserve will also be created to the long-term benefits of the community and the environment.

Clearly, we need to move from exemplar to everywhere. That’s why we also made a commitment to at least 10% BNG in all of our designs submitted for planning from the start of 2023. This was important to build knowledge and capacity within the business, developing guidance and providing support for our teams.

While it is a simple concept, there will be challenges for the industry to implement it effectively, everywhere. It will involve changes to current approaches, processes and there will be a cost to deliver this support for wildlife. However, if we don’t get behind such initiatives, then it’s going to be too late to help reverse the decline in nature.

Finally, and perhaps even more importantly, we need to let our customers know about the biodiversity initiatives within their developments and encourage them to make homes for nature in their own gardens. This includes supporting the RSPB’s Nature on Your Doorstep campaign, creating nature-friendly show home gardens and developing guides for customers too.

While there are challenges, BNG is positive step, brings focus to the challenges facing nature, and now government, developers and homeowners alike can work together to help nature recover.

About Helen Nyul

Helen Nyul has over 17 years’ experience working on business and biodiversity strategies including nine years with Fauna and Flora International’s business and biodiversity team, advising businesses  on the integration of biodiversity and ecosystem services strategies and biodiversity net gain (BNG) targets into business practices. In 2017 Helen joined Barratt Developments PLC to deliver Barratt’s Biodiversity and Ecology Policy and manage the long term partnership Barratt has with the RSPB. Since then Helen has been involved in the development of the industry BNG Practical Guide published by CIEEM, IEMA and CIRIA, the BS8683:2021 and building capacity across Barratt to meet biodiversity net gain and wider biodiversity requirements. 

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