Action needed to fully implement UK’s nature-based markets

Rural developers and experts in natural capital are calling on the new government to review and better resource the delivery of nature-based markets such as biodiversity net gain.

Labour has said that it will “make the UK the green finance capital of the world”. To deliver on this promise in the UK, nature-based markets should be fully implemented in voluntary and regulatory markets, with planning authorities well supported to recruit and train the necessary staff.

Greenshank delivers nutrient mitigation and biodiversity net gain schemes from inception and technical design through to deployment and sales. Their team has led innovation in the industry, developing guidance for Natural England and shaping the regulations and policy.

Kim Connor Streich, Greenshank’s Chief Commercial Officer, said, “For both nutrient neutrality and biodiversity net gain, local planning authority and Natural England resources are not sufficient to meet demand.

“Labour have pledged to recruit hundreds of planning officers. This is welcome, but we also need to ensure they have the training and guidance to know how to deal with BNG and, where relevant, nutrient neutrality (NN). We are seeing too many local planning authority (LPAs) not knowing how to handle BNG and NN, and this causes delays, increasing negative sentiments and objections from developers, which can in turn undermine market confidence.”

Connor Streich said that it was critical to define the role of public sector financing in delivering nutrient neutrality.

He said, “Public sector organisations are ploughing taxpayer money into schemes that are inefficient and distort the market. The government has previously committed to a market-led approach to nutrient neutrality but because schemes are not being approved fast enough (due to resource shortages and a lack of guidance), they are also ploughing money into public sector led initiatives that are undermining investor confidence.

“These initiatives also have rules on spending public money that create perverse incentives – last week I heard of one council outbidding a private company for land that the private company was going to use for a BNG and nutrient neutrality scheme. If this scheme was coming forward anyway, why outbid them?

“Assuming there is a still a commitment to a market-led approach to nutrient neutrality, the focus should be on getting more private schemes in the market and using public money to facilitate this, not compete with it.”

Rob Hindle, managing director of rural planning consultancy, Rural Solutions, agrees that there is more to be done to drive demand in nature-based markets.

He said that he was looking to the new administration to “make the planning system a positive force for sustainable growth in rural areas.” This should include an “affirmation of support for mandatory biodiversity net gain”, alongside a recognition that conditions still need to be established to “drive demand for nature-based solutions within voluntary as well as regulatory markets.”

Hindle said that government also needed to make a strong commitment to the importance and value of rural communities.

He said, “I would like to see a strong statement around the importance and value of our rural areas as places for people and nature. Places to live, work, create wealth, care for, and enjoy. Vibrant and wild. Active and tranquil.” This should be followed “with a commitment to environmental targets – nature and climate – and to thriving rural communities – housing, services, people, and enterprise.”

Connor Streich said that specific action also needed to be taken to deliver more tools and faster approval for nutrient neutrality.

He said, “We need the new government to provide more direction to Natural England to approve new approaches to nutrient mitigation quicker and to approach proposals, especially those for nature-based solutions, more positively. It takes at least a year to go from a proposal for a new approach to mitigation to getting it approved and this is simply too long. And too often Natural England only look for reasons why solutions won’t work, not how to make them work. Public money could be used to help Natural England with resourcing that would also help to approve new mitigation approaches faster.”


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