Biodiversity net gain could offer exciting opportunities for farmers and rural landowners who wish to turn unused land into profit. Thanks to the Government’s new flagship Environment Act, introduced in 2021, it’s now a requirement for developers to ensure their projects increase the overall biodiversity value of their site by 10%. Not only will this make a significant positive impact on the environment, but it may also offer several benefits to those who want to be a part of the scheme.
A 10% uplift of biodiversity on site is an objective that isn’t always achievable. Developers must identify how much biodiversity will be lost with each project, and evidence how they’re going to replace it, including an additional 10%.
They have a choice of increasing biodiversity on site or off site, with developers opting for off site as the more efficient solution. Developers can choose to partner with a local landowner to increase the biodiversity on their land to achieve the 10% target on their behalf. This is beneficial to both the developer and the landowner. The developer will reach the required uplift for their project and the farmer will receive a significant sum as compensation.
What biodiversity opportunities are there?
There are quite a few biodiversity net gain opportunities for landowners. The value is dependent on the pre-development stats of the land. A small patch of bare arable land, for example, will earn fewer credits than a patch with unimproved grass. An area suitable for the introduction of wildflowers, wetland, rewilding and woodland would be considered very attractive to the government and developers.
An area of land which is going to be deemed as very attractive would-be low land. This is mainly because lowland meadows have suffered a serious decline of around 97% due to agricultural practices in the 20th century. Therefore, lowland presents a fantastic opportunity for biodiversity uplift. As a landowner, it’s important to consider all the opportunities your natural capital might provide.
You should also consider the implications and impacts of the scheme. It’s possible that your land would be taken out of production for thirty years, which leaves very little opportunity for alternative use. You should also weigh up whether it would be more cost effective for you to consider another financial opportunity for the land, as you may have further management obligations or ongoing costs.
How much can I make from biodiversity net gain?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say exactly how much you could make if you use your land for biodiversity net gain. There are no real guidelines in place, and the payment is usually determined in negotiations between the landowner and developer. However, it’s generally understood that landowners see more financial value from using their land for biodiversity net gain than any other farming practice.
What are the benefits of biodiversity net gain?
There are many financial benefits to using your land for biodiversity net gain, but there are also other benefits. If you’re a farmer, using an area of land to increase biodiversity could result in increased soil health, pest control, nutrient cycling and it could even prevent runoff to waterways.
Biodiversity net gain could have significant advantages for farmers, without reducing the overall potential your land will have for agricultural yield. Farming is one of the few industries that both contributes to and is impacted by environmental uncertainty. Therefore, increasing environmental stability could help secure the future of the agricultural industry.
It goes without saying that biodiversity is incredibly important for the future health of our environment, which is why biodiversity net gain was introduced in the first place. It’s essential for food production, healthy ecosystems, the pollination of plants, pest and disease control and the support of all life on earth.
What are the disadvantages of biodiversity net gain?
Despite the many positives landowners can expect from biodiversity net gain, there are also several possible disadvantages which you’d need to weigh up. The common 30-year term of agreement may be a sticking point for some. Three decades is a long time to lose an area of land, especially if you hadn’t considered other uses or opportunities that may come up during this length of time.
If you decide that the thirty-year term of agreement is worth it, you would also need to consider the viability of the land once the 30 year agreement is up. Biodiversity enhancement may leave the land unusable for anything else once the agreement has expired.
Some landowners also don’t consider the tax implications of offering land for biodiversity net gain, as it could result in the loss of inheritance tax reliefs. They also may not consider that the official register for net gain, which is currently in development, may result in their information being made available to the public.
Landowners need to consider all the available information before they enter an agreement with developers, which is why most people choose to seek advice from an ecological consultant. An experienced consultant will help you consider all the outcomes, so that you can make the best possible choice for your natural assets.
Strategies for biodiversity enhancement
Increasing biodiversity may be easier than you think. You could choose to create more hospitable areas for wildlife by planting trees and flowers strategically on your land or you could dig holes for ponds, which would provide wildlife with a place to drink. A simple solution may be to leave grassy areas grow naturally, encouraging the resurgence of shrubs such as stinging nettles, or flowering plants.
Why you should consider an ecological consultant
Despite its popularity, entering an agreement for biodiversity net gain is a serious consideration that may impact the future of your land. A professional environmental consultant will help you understand all the implications and considerations, so that you can make the most advantageous choice.
A licensed ecological consultant in Biodiversity will support you through the entire process, following guidelines set out by professional bodies such as Defra. They will help you assess and clearly demonstrate the value your land may have to prospective developers, which would result in the best possible outcome for your future. For more information and a free initial consultation contact us on 01225 459564 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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