02 July 2024

Build biodiversity into your plans from day one

Biodiversity can be a challenging hurdle for development projects – and the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain requirements is the latest layer of compliance – but it need not be an insurmountable issue.

We know that biodiversity can come in all shapes and sizes and the richest sources of biodiversity are not always in the most obvious places. For example, a golf course may have a relative lack of diversity, whereas a brownfield demolition plot or a former bomb site may actually have developed a rich diversity over the years.

Those less obvious sites may also bring additional challenges, such as remediation works clearing waste products such as oil or contaminated land, will often reduce existing diversity, thus requiring more interventions in order to arrive at a net gain.

Such complications can make the journey to reaching the 10% biodiversity mark even longer and also potentially delay the start on site, as developers can only submit their biodiversity plan following the grant of a planning consent. It can be impossible to achieve the diversity on site and even when a developer proposes to do it remotely, there is a risk of objections from local authority members.

This melting pot can create myriad additional costs and uncertainty for developers and their partners to negotiate.

Therefore, it is strongly advisable to talk about biodiversity before the design or planning process. Build it into your thinking from day one and agree on a draft biodiversity plan before making an application to help mitigate risk.

At our Hind Street development site in Birkenhead, we are working to develop a 32-acre former gas works, railway station and sidings. At the inception of works, the ground was in poor condition, with areas of contamination and reclaimed land, and gas equipment still in place and operating, all of which has made for a highly challenging development environment. 

BNG is just one hurdle of many, with surface water drainage, flooding and amenity space requirements often of equal or even greater challenge. Therefore, it has been essential to look at the site in a more creative and holistic way and develop designs that deal with multiple issues up front.

This includes the transformation of a 2,000 ft section of railway embankment to a linear park, to be known as Dock Branch Park South, that not only allows us to achieve a BNG of 16%, but also provides both necessary amenity space for 1,600 homes and a flood defence barrier for future river overtopping.

By considering these kinds of features in advance of the planning application, developers can hope to gain a pre-approval consensus, thereby saving precious time and money and maintaining project momentum. 

Our expertise.

We are an urban regeneration specialists who develop cityscapes cleverly and sympathetically. As successful with heritage and listed buildings restorations as with new builds, we have the experience, knowledge and capacity to deliver large development schemes and sustain lasting successful partnerships.