Ecological leveling up, environmental priorities for new government by Bob Leatham

 Dear Kier,

One of your manifesto pledges is to get the economy on track and simplify / speed up the planning system etc etc.This was also one of the last governments pledges. However, in this quest they (DEFRA) inexplicably introduced perhaps one of the most convoluted, complex schemes known to mankind. It goes by the name of Biodiversity Net Gain. A recent audit by ONS concluded that the scheme is highly ineffective and fraught with issues and underfunding / misapplication / total lack of investment.

I have worked in the ecological sector for approaching 30 years. I can tell you from painful experience that this scheme is the single most cause of planning delays, creating a complete log jam of applications. More to the point it is a huge waste of resources, time, money and effort which results in more than 50% (often much higher) of total expenditure wasted on the processors and transactors of the scheme. Like nearly every credit based system, e.g. carbon offsetting, it is a complete failure, primarily only benefiting those involved in the process. Only the dregs actually filter down to where it really matters.

It’s a complete scam for biodiversity resulting in a small fraction of money spent on the process (all professionals /those involved in the planning process), actually ending up in the ground…..more often than not, the wrong ground. We cannot have a biodiversity strategy that by default is focussed on the random location of a planning application boundary, or, if off site mitigation is required, the location of ‘biodiversity investment’ is further randomised by who is selling / brokering land at the cheapest price, then they scam the life out of it, via dubious deals and profiteering arrangements.

The whole scheme is unenforceable, corrupt, ecologically flawed, with only a handful of LPA ecologists tasked with monitoring thousands of applications in every LPA area. This is why your LPA’s are at a virtual standstill….along with any meaningful biodiversity gain.

There are no targets for BNG, no aims or vision. The solution is simple; scrap the BNG Metric, levy a tax on developments following a robust ecological survey, using well established criteria (charged at the same rates as BNG), but have that money invested into local / regional / national nature recovery strategies. Its simple on planning consent the planning applicant pays a tax, calculated very quickly following a robust ecological survey based on well established criteria. At present many LPA’s have no strategy to receive BNG monies, in some cases they wont even accept it !

Target the money into landscape scale restoration, for example, start with a river catchment approach for biodiversity investment, this will also address the appalling state of our water quality.
It’s a no brainer for biodiversity and a functioning planning system.

Please consider a complete re-evaluation and audit of this overly complex, hugely wasteful system.
I believe it is completely possible to facilitate both development and biodiversity in the right locations. However, you first need a vision and strategy, then an efficient mechanism to achieve it.
Get this right and you will get the economy and planning system moving, whilst addressing the dire state of our biodiversity and environment.

see also previous posts BNG fail 2020

Local BNG examplesWoodfield Gardens New Malden


Most viewed

Heritage Trees part 2: street trees.

Fishing the Hogsmill

Seething Wells: they've done it again