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Habitat Bank initiative restores nature and helps developers

A LANDOWNER at Emberton near Olney is helping to create the first Habitat Bank in Milton Keynes.

Joseph Soul is working with Environment Bank and its team of expert ecologists, who specialise in creating and restoring natural habitat to support biodiversity recovery.

Mr Soul owns Wood Farm, a working farm and a family-run campsite, and is eager to begin the work that will further diversify the land, create a new income stream and provide a range of benefits to nature.

“We are delighted that Wood Farm is going to host a Habitat Bank so that we can do our bit to enhance local biodiversity,” Mr Soul said. “Our Habitat Bank is to be located adjacent to two local wildlife sites, which we know are precious within our community.”

The increased biodiversity value is measurable using government-approved metrics and can be translated into Biodiversity Units, sold to developers so that they meet soon-to-be mandatory planning requirements in relation to Biodiversity Net Gain.

Environment Bank developed its Habitat Bank model to help developers to secure BNG. Its work is important to the realisation of the government’s ambitions for nature recovery and a net-zero future. It aims to create more than 200 Habitat Banks over the next five years.

Pictured top: Environment Bank ecologists including principal ecologist Sophie Moy (right).

In return for managing the habitat, farmers and landowners receive funding for a minimum of 30 years. This opens up a new avenue of economic yield for rural communities which have struggled financially with Brexit in recent years and now the cost of living crisis.

Most of the Emberton site currently consists of cultivated arable land, primarily being intensively farmed for wheat. The plan is for the site to be home to habitats including meadows, mixed scrub, and native hedgerows.

“All of these habitats will be essential in restoring nature to Wood Farm and ensuring that biodiversity can thrive,” Mr Soul said.

Environment Bank ecologists have conducted a thorough assessment of the site. Its findings have informed a detailed Habitat Enhancement and Management Plan co-created with Mr Soul so that practical aspects of managing the land were taken into account and the plans for restoring the biodiversity value of the site were achievable and appropriate.

The restoration project will be fully established over the next ten years and maintained and managed for at least 30 years.

Environment bank’s principal ecologist Sophie Moy said: “At Environment Bank, we are all about creating a real and lasting positive change for biodiversity through the creation of a more functional and resilient natural landscape. On a site like Mr Soul’s, at a size of 38 hectares, this project promises to deliver just that; landscape-scale nature recovery.

“Through the creation of a mosaic of species-rich grassland, native mixed scrub, and hedgerows we will be creating habitats capable of supporting richer and more abundant biodiversity, contributing to restoring biodiversity at a local level.”

  • To combat the biodiversity loss issue, the Environment Act 2021 mandated that all housing and commercial developers, infrastructure businesses, and corporations must achieve ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ (BNG) on their projects, equating to a 10% uplift in biodiversity, or risk planning permission being refused.

To help developers secure BNG, Environment Bank developed its unprecedented ‘Habitat Bank’ model, a rapid, risk-free, and robust solution to the BNG legal requirement. Habitat Banking was a concept pioneered by prominent Ecologist Professor David Hill, CBE, one of the founding members of Natural England. His team is now working with farmers and landowners across England, tapping into thousands of hectares of land to restore wildlife habitats.

For more information or to enquire about setting up a Habitat Bank on your land, visit: https://www.environmentbank.com/

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