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Whilst many of us are still getting our heads around Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), Environmental Net Gain (ENG) is something to be aware of too.

Environmental Net Gain is not new, there have been various Government reports over the past 10 years suggesting various ways to make development more sustainable. The UK National Infrastructure Commission defines ENG as an ‘approach to development that leaves both biodiversity and the environment in a measurably better state than prior to development’.  Therefore, Environmental Net Gain is not only a measure of biodiversity but also ecosystem services and environmental metrics.

In England, the Government prepared a 25-year environment plan ‘A Green Future: Our 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment’, in 2018.  The Government outlined that ‘We want to establish strategic, flexible and locally tailored approaches that recognise the relationship between the quality of the environment and development. That will enable us to achieve measurable improvements for the environment – ‘environmental net gains’ – while ensuring economic growth and reducing costs, complexity and delays for developers.’

Whilst ENG is not mandatory at the moment it is gaining momentum in the sector and is something to be aware of for development sites in the future. The 25-year environmental plan outlined that BNG should be initially delivered through the planning system and that the Government ‘will explore the strengthening for planning authorities to ensure environmental net gain’ with a view of this becoming mandatory in the future.

So, what will Environmental Net Gain consider? That is difficult to establish until a dedicated metric is prepared, and it becomes mandatory through the planning system, but it is likely to include some consideration of ecosystem services (such as the contribution of food production, water purification, flood protection, recreational and tourism activities, physical and mental health, and timber production makes both on and offsite). The mechanism is likely to involve an environmental metric to measure the site’s environmental performance and could include long-term environmental goals such as air quality, carbon emissions and of course the natural environment.