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England's New Nature Boosting Rules For Builders

From this week, developments must result in more or better natural habitat than before, in a move hailed as one of the world’s most ambitious.

Natural grass roof on a building
Natural roof | Unsplash

This week marks the debut of the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) program, an important new regulation that requires new development projects to benefit, not hurt, the natural environment. Under this “nature market,” all new building projects must generate a 10 percent net increase in biodiversity or habitat. If a natural area is damaged, a similar or superior habitat must be created, either on-site or elsewhere.

With the UK government’s goal of building 300,000 new houses yearly by the mid-2020s, the BNG program could have a significant positive impact for biodiversity and the envionment generally.

Natalie Duffus, a University of Oxford researcher, praises the scheme’s potential impact: “In theory, it could restore lots of habitats.” The legislation took effect for larger sites on 12 February and comes into force for smaller sites on 2 April.

The BNG initiative in England, dubbed “world-leading in its scope” by Sophus zu Ermgassen, an ecological economist at the University of Oxford, is gaining global notice. Sweden, Singapore, Scotland, and Wales have already expressed interest in adopting or adapting the approach, with Duffus adding, “Other places are watching us and seeing how it unfolds.”


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