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Beyond Biodiversity Net Gain is aimed at people working in all aspects of the built environment. Inspired by the law that came into effect in England on February 12, 2024, the course will make you fluent in the basics of BNG. Dip in and out of easily accessible video lessons featuring top experts.

However, the course is relevant internationally, as the same principles can be applied elsewhere. So regardless of your position within the built environment, Beyond Biodiversity Net Gain, will enable you to understand many concepts of biodiversity related to the built environment.

Each of the twelve lessons has an expert video and a quiz. If you pass at a rate of 80% or more, you will get a certificate for each lesson.

If you complete all twelve modules and pass each quiz, you will also get the Certificate of Graduation.

Lesson 1: It’s Not Just Business As Usual And A Few More Trees With Claire Wansbury

Short video excerpt

 

In Lesson 1, Claire Wansbury will introduce you to some concepts and the rest of the course.

The Concept of Biodiversity Net Gain: Claire introduces us to the idea of biodiversity net gain (BNG), a pivotal strategy for ensuring that development projects in England contribute positively to the environment.

Legislation and Policy: We discuss the recent inclusion of BNG in the Environment Act of 2021 and its implications for the Town and Country Planning Act, marking a significant shift towards mandatory environmental responsibility in construction.

Beyond Compliance: Biodiversity net gain isn’t just a tick-box exercise; it represents a harmonious blend of environmental, societal, and economic benefits. We’ll explore why BNG is essential for sustainable development.

Measuring Success: Our guest breaks down the metric-based framework used to evaluate biodiversity net gain, explaining the mitigation hierarchy—avoidance, mitigation, compensation—and the goal of achieving a minimum of a 10% net increase in biodiversity.

Holistic Habitat Design: The conversation will delve into the importance of qualitative measures alongside quantitative ones, emphasising the need for thoughtful habitat design that serves both people and wildlife.

Collaborative Progress: Claire highlights the value of shared experiences and learning in perfecting the application of BNG. As we progress, it’s about building a collective understanding to implement these principles more effectively.

A Vision for the Future: Finally, we look at the broader objective of using BNG, among other tools, to work towards a future where nature isn’t just preserved but is actively enriched by development activities.

Lesson 2: Why Beyond Is Better For Your Budget And Your Health

Short video excerpt

 

Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain: The imminent status of biodiversity net gain as a compulsory aspect of planning developments in England and its implications.

Multifunctional Landscapes: The concept of going beyond simple biodiversity enhancements to create spaces that benefit both the environment and human populations.

Role of Built Environment Professionals: The critical responsibility of architects, planners, and designers to integrate nature into their projects, recognising our dependence on ecological systems.

Comprehensive Benefits of Biodiversity: The multifaceted advantages of biodiversity net gain, including the creation of better living spaces, health and well-being promotion, and climate change mitigation.

Potential Pitfalls: The risks of treating biodiversity net gain as a mere box-ticking exercise, which could undermine deeper ecological objectives, drawing parallels to attitudes sometimes observed with BREEAM.

Small-Scale Initiatives: The significance of minor but essential actions, like swift boxes, which, despite being overlooked by habitat metrics, are vital for authentic environmental stewardship.

Long-Term Management Challenges: The hurdles faced in maintaining biodiversity projects over time and the importance of client awareness and effective management strategies for enduring success.

Evidence-Based Design: Sustainable and health-promoting design practices supported by research, with examples such as London’s recyclable Olympic Park buildings, the healing influence of natural vistas in hospitals, and the positive effects of nature on education and workplace environments.

Health Benefits of Green Spaces: Insights from Newcastle University and Natural England on the connection between green space proximity and public health, aligning with governmental targets for accessible natural areas.

The Pandemic’s Impact: How COVID-19 has heightened public appreciation for green spaces and influenced a trend towards incorporating nature into urban planning, especially in residential projects.

A Case Study in Action: A 1990s office complex project demonstrates the long-term benefits of integrating biodiversity and sustainable features for employee well-being and reduced absenteeism.

 

Lesson 3: The Maths Matter With Claire Wansbury

Short video excerpt

Understanding Biodiversity Net Gain: We unpack the concept of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and its significance in ensuring that development projects contribute positively to the environment.

England’s Biodiversity Metric 4.0 Explained: Clare Wansbury walks us through the complexities of the biodiversity metric 4.0, a tool used to quantify the impacts of development on biodiversity.

Components of the Metric: Learn about the key components that the metric evaluates, including habitat areas, terrestrial linear features, and watercourses, and why trading between these types is strictly controlled.

Calculating Biodiversity Units: Discover how the metric calculates net changes in biodiversity units, factoring in the area, distinctiveness, condition, and strategic significance of habitats.

Post-Development Challenges: The discussion sheds light on the additional elements considered for habitats post-development and the challenges in maintaining or enhancing their value.

The Role of Irreplaceable Habitats: Clare emphasises the crucial importance of irreplaceable habitats and how the metric accounts for their conservation.

Compensatory Measures: We explore the methods for compensating biodiversity losses, including on-site habitat creation or enhancement, and the complexities of off-site compensation.

Consulting with DEFRA: The episode stresses the importance of consulting with DEFRA for comprehensive guidance on achieving BNG, highlighting its integral role in project planning.

The 10% Net Gain Target: Clare Wansbury talks about the government’s ambitious target of a 10% net gain in biodiversity and what it means for future developments.

Lesson 4: How To Observe Bats As Indicators – Dr. Carol Williams

Short video excerpt

Biodiversity Indicators: Bats are more than just mysterious creatures of the night; they are key indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Carol Williams explains how their presence and diversity reflect the state of biodiversity in Britain.

Britain’s Bat Species: We’ll learn about the 17 unique species of bats in Britain, each with its distinct behaviours and habitats. Understanding these differences is essential for effective conservation.

Legal Protection for Bats: Bats in Britain enjoy legal protection, which extends to their roosts, feeding areas, and movement routes. Carol underscores the importance of this protection for their survival, especially in light of their decline over the past century.

Integrating Conservation in Development: The text presents a three-step approach for incorporating bat conservation into development projects, highlighting the importance of identifying sustenance zones, understanding habitat needs, and mitigating impacts on foraging areas.

Building Resilience: By intersecting core sustenance zones, we can enhance resilience for other bat roosts. Carol shares actionable measures like creating green corridors, preserving flight paths, and employing sensitive lighting.

Enhancing Roosting Potential: Discover how strategies such as installing bat boxes can improve roosting opportunities. The show discusses the mitigation hierarchy, which emphasises avoiding and minimising impacts before compensating for them through biodiversity net gain.

Biodiversity Net Gain Concept: The episode delves into how biodiversity net gain is essential for ensuring that bat populations not only survive but thrive in the face of development. This concept is vital for species recovery and enhancing the quality of life for all species, including humans.

 

Lesson 5: The Mitigation Hierarchy With Claire Wansbury

Short video excerpt

 

Understanding the Mitigation Hierarchy: Claire Wansbury breaks down the steps of the mitigation hierarchy—avoid, minimise, restore, and offset—and explains why this approach is a cornerstone of environmental sustainability in construction.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG): The lesson highlights the goal of achieving BNG, ensuring that post-construction biodiversity is in a better state than before, thus fostering a balance between development and environmental preservation.

The Role of Environmental Impact Assessments: The importance of thorough environmental impact assessments is discussed, noting how they incorporate BNG principles and are essential for effective carbon management.

Protection of Designated Areas: Special attention is given to the protection of designated areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), ancient woodlands, and peat bogs, which are crucial for maintaining biodiversity.

Importance of Ecological Advice: Claire underscores the necessity of incorporating expert ecological advice early in the planning stages to evaluate habitats, protected species, connectivity, and overall ecosystem health.

Sustainability Recognition: The podcast explores how construction projects that excel in sustainability efforts can be acknowledged through various awards, encouraging the industry to prioritise biodiversity.

Industry Trends: Ben and Claire reflect on the increasing emphasis on biodiversity and sustainability within the construction industry, pointing out the positive shifts and growing awareness among professionals.

Lesson 6: What We Can Learn From Spains Hall Estate With Archie Ruggles-Brise

Short video excerpt

  1. Introduction to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)
    • Definition of BNG and its upcoming role as a mandatory requirement in England.
    • The potential of BNG to provide new revenue streams for landowners through ecological enhancement of less productive lands.
  2. Spain’s Hall Estate: A Case Study in BNG
    • Spain’s Hall Estate’s journey with BNG, beginning with a natural capital appraisal in 2019.
    • Participation in Natural England’s biodiversity net gain credits pilot scheme and securing funding for ecological planning.
  3. Sustainable Land Management and Diversified Revenue
    • How the estate is creating a resilient business model that balances ecosystem services with sustainable financial outcomes.
    • Introduction of natural flood management techniques, such as beaver reintroduction, to address local flooding issues.
  4. Practicalities of Implementing BNG
    • The need for landowners to assess habitat suitability and develop skills in habitat creation, enhancement, maintenance, and monitoring.
    • Understanding the long-term view and associated risks of BNG agreements, alongside potential financial benefits.
  5. Exploring Voluntary Markets and Regulatory Frameworks
    • The importance of regulatory frameworks to incentivize biodiversity offsets across sectors.
    • Considerations for landowners looking to engage in voluntary markets to offset biodiversity loss.
  6. The Future of BNG and Land Management
    • The significance of careful planning and the importance of building a competent team.
    • Addressing the intersection of water, carbon, and people-related initiatives within BNG projects.
    • The optimistic outlook for a nature-positive future through engagement with BNG.

Lesson 7: On Site BNG with Principal Ecologist Rachel Blount

Short video excerpt

 

Understanding BNG: Exploring the concept of biodiversity net gain within England’s development sector, and why on-site BNG is often preferred over off-site alternatives.

Local Benefits: Discussing the advantages of on-site BNG for local wildlife and communities, fostering an environment where nature and human interests coexist harmoniously.

Biodiversity Valuation: Breaking down the process of calculating pre- and post-development biodiversity values and the importance of submitting a gain plan.

Long-Term Commitment: Highlighting the need for a long-term habitat management strategy, spanning at least three decades, to ensure sustainable BNG.

Strategic Planning: Emphasising the importance of early incorporation of BNG considerations in the planning stage, and why selecting sites with lower initial biodiversity can be more beneficial.

Expert Guidance: The role of ecological expertise in accurately assessing baseline biodiversity and how it influences the retention and enhancement of existing habitats.

Community-Centric Design: How integrating local community interests in BNG efforts can amplify the benefits for both people and nature.

Habitat Design: Exploring creative ways to design habitats that serve dual purposes, such as walking paths that double as ecological features.

Landscape Synergy: The significance of considering the broader landscape and local priorities to ensure connectivity and collaborative enhancement of surrounding habitats.

Feasibility Matters: Understanding that practical and feasible BNG proposals are key to successful implementation.

Beyond Metrics: Acknowledging that while numerical metrics are essential for measuring biodiversity value, a deeper understanding of specific site needs is crucial for genuine biodiversity enhancement.

Lesson 8: The BNG Legal Eagle, Ben Stansfield

Short video excerpt

 

Introduction to BNG: What is Biodiversity Net Gain and why is it mandatory for development projects? An exploration of the basics of BNG.

Pathways to Achieving BNG: Understanding the various avenues for developers to meet BNG requirements, from on-site initiatives like green walls to off-site solutions such as habitat banking.

The Cost Dilemma: We discuss the significant costs associated with BNG, including the government’s statutory credit prices, and the financial implications for developers.

Legal and Liability Considerations: Insights into the legal aspects of BNG, including the transfer of obligations through third-party credit purchases versus the challenges of self-delivery.

Conservation Covenants and Enforcement: A look at conservation covenants under the Environment Act as a new tool for biodiversity commitments, and the questions surrounding enforcement responsibilities.

Local Planning Authority Concerns: The episode touches on the potential enforcement burden on local planning authorities and the issue of conflicts of interest, especially with wildlife trusts.

The Importance of Early Dialogue: Emphasising the need for collaboration and early discussions among all stakeholders to achieve successful and sustainable BNG outcomes.

Looking Ahead: As the recording was made in July 2023, we anticipate further clarification and legislative updates that could reshape the BNG landscape. We will have an update lesson in the first half of 2024.

Lesson 9: Offsite BNG with Associate Ecologist Paula Wakelin

Short video excerpt

 

Mandatory BNG Implementation:

  • Paula highlights the upcoming requirement for a 10% net increase in biodiversity on most new developments.
  • Understand the timeline: smaller sites and certain projects are exempt until possibly April 2024, but this may change.

On-site vs. Off-site Biodiversity Enhancements:

  • Prioritizing on-site biodiversity is the goal, but when it’s not feasible, off-site options become necessary.
  • Learn how ecologists play a pivotal role in assessing the need for off-site units and the strict guidelines governing their location.

Strategic Use of Off-site BNG Units:

  • Discover the role of national character areas and local authorities in off-site BNG units.
  • We’ll explain the use of multipliers and trading standards that apply to these units.

Resourceful Navigation:

  • Resources like the UK Green Building Council’s website can provide additional insights for developers and ecologists.
  • Explore the methods of delivering BNG units: private agreements, Habitat Banks, or statutory credits.

Considerations in Habitat Enhancements:

  • We’ll talk about the importance of realistic habitat targets, historical land use, and securing necessary permissions.
  • Paula discusses ‘stacking’ land uses, such as biodiversity units with nutrient credits, for maximum benefit.

The Role of Ecological Consultancies:

  • Atkins and other ecological consultancies are essential in guiding clients through the BNG process.
  • The potential and importance of the habitat bank market are also explored.

Symbiotic Relationship with Nature:

  • Emphasising the need for sustainable planning and responsible management of off-site BNG units.
  • The episode concludes with the benefits of BNG as a conservation strategy and its role in fostering a green and resilient environment.

Lesson 10: What We Can Learn From Greater Cambridge Shared Planning

Short video excerpt

  1. Understanding Biodiversity Net Gain Policies:
    • We break down what biodiversity net gain means for developers and the environment, setting the stage for why it’s essential in today’s planning landscape.
  2. The Role of Planning Advisory Services:
    • The text emphasises the importance of consulting with experts to navigate the policies effectively. We’ll explore how these services can make or break a project.
  3. Funding and Resources:
    • Addressing the challenge of ecologist shortages and the need for funding – a closer look at how securing support from DEFRA can facilitate project progress.
  4. Training in Decision-Making Science:
    • We discuss why training team members in decision-making science is crucial and how it contributes to achieving net gain objectives.
  5. Data Management:
    • The significance of efficient data management in realising biodiversity net gain—we’ll talk about the best practices and tools available.
  6. Early Engagement:
    • The value of developers and consultants engaging early in the process – how does this help integrate green infrastructure effectively?
  7. Benefits of Green Infrastructure:
    • A look at the dual benefits for humans and nature when green infrastructure is incorporated into development projects.
  8. Proactive Involvement:
    • The summary highlights proactive involvement with advisory services – we’ll discuss strategies for developers to integrate practical schemes from the get-go.

Lesson 11: BNG processes and paperwork with Dr Kate Vincent

Short video excerpt

 

The Core Theme: The critical importance of integrating BNG into the early stages of project development. Dr. Vincent illustrates why early consideration is not just a regulatory tick-box but a pathway to optimising project design, managing risks, and streamlining budgets.

Upcoming Legislation: A spotlight on the BNG legislation that’s anticipated to come into force in November 2023. Dr. Vincent outlines the potential impact this legislation will have on project planning and development.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: We discuss the need for cohesive teamwork across various disciplines, including designers, architects, engineers, and ecologists, from the feasibility stage through to completion.

The Holistic Approach: How considering BNG from the get-go not only protects and enhances biodiversity but also aids in effective financial planning and decision-making for on-site versus off-site habitat creation.

Communication is Key: The text emphasises the essential role of continuous dialogue among ecologists, local planning authorities, and developers to address challenges, improve efficiencies, and set realistic expectations throughout the mandatory BNG process.

Real-world Implications: Dr. Vincent shares insights from her vast experience, providing practical advice and anecdotes about implementing BNG in major projects.

Lesson 12: Strategic Significance with Ecologist Ellen Davies

Short video excerpt

  1. Introduction to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG):
    • Ellen discusses the fundamentals of BNG and its role in promoting environmental sustainability.
  2. The Concept of Strategic Significance:
    • We explore the concept of strategic significance in the context of BNG and how it assesses the local importance of habitats.
  3. The Role of Habitat Values:
    • The lesson highlights how habitats are assigned values (high, medium, or low) based on their ecological relevance, influenced by local plans and policies.
  4. Adherence to Official Guidance:
    • Ellen stresses the necessity of compliance with official guidance when implementing BNG and considering its strategic significance.
  5. Experiential Learning:
    • Insights into the value of learning from experience in the field of ecological consulting and BNG application are shared.
  6. Introduction to the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS):
    • The lesson delves into the LNRS, a mandatory framework that aims to encourage collective action for nature restoration.