Further to our recent articles DEFRA have recently published their consultation response to the Defra Metric 2 – Beta Test Version.
As a business we have fed back extensively to the consultation, not least through specialist workshops focused around the need to find a way to reflect the value of woodland creation, which was being prejudiced as a habitat option due to the time to achieve target condition.
DEFRA have now confirmed that the revised Metric will be published in December 2020, which is likely to coincide with the timings for the Environment Bill 2019/20, and based on current understanding, will see the requirement for mandatory net biodiversity gain of 10% passing into law.
The consultation response does provide some comfort with some of the key points being:-
- Changes to the assessment of difficulty and time to target condition for woodland creation will help to make this a more attractive option.
- Technical guidance, including for condition assessments, will be updated with worked examples and illustrations to try and minimise ambiguity.
- The mechanism for assessing ecological connectivity will be reviewed and updated to better reflect the real value this can bring.
- Mechanisms will be introduced to recognise the value of habitats created in advance of development.
- Consideration will be given as to how to better deal with the overlap between linear i.e. hedgerows, watercourses and area habitats, including recognition of how these can add value to one another.
- A simplified Metric will also be developed for small sites and published as a beta version for consultation in December 2020.
The above developments are helpful and will, in our view, provide a significant improvement on the current position. However, the fundamentals of the Metric and its role in the proposed assessment of Biodiversity Net Gain will still remain largely unchanged.
As we have advised before we would strongly encourage you to work through the Metric on both historic projects and current sites, to help gain an understanding of the process and impacts. In particular the need to work with key stakeholders to understand timing for the baseline and the ‘banking’ of habitats such as advance woodland planting will be key.
If you would like a free of charge online CPD session for some of your team or if we can help you to assess and better understand the implications for some of your projects please call either John Lockhart or Jo Alderton.