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BNG with B&G!

There are numerous, mostly informative and useful articles and adverts in circulation advising and reminding us all of the arrival of mandatory net gain.

Brindle & Green’s multi divisional approach to BNG takes things that one (in fact 3 stages) further. Read on to learn about BNG at B&G!

1 – Plan it (ecology)

2 – Design it (landscape) 

3 – Implement it (contracting) 


1 – Plan it with Ecology 

At B&G we probably had a head start over some in that we were lucky enough to be involved in several applications in Warwickshire a good few years ago, a County that led the way in the development of BNG in its own form long before the roll out of the BNG we have today. The sites were on behalf of Spitfire Homes and we inherited both, virtue of a previous consultant who had struggled with the use of metrics and mapping to deliver habitat gains. It was a first for now Director, Dr Lucie Sweet and she was able to better establish baseline values and get to grips with the metric and layouts to far improve the outcomes.

Some of the core principles we learnt in those early experiences in Warwickshire remain true today. Early engagement is absolutely key. We see that so often now with many of our retained clients and we are asked frequently to advise at bid stage – never mind at the point of pulling together an application. Building those relationships with your consultant teams is key. Having the option to send a few site photos and a high level masterplan to your consultant for some quick and free thoughts at bid stage or early planning’s stages can save a lot of time, hassle and wasted money. Build solid relationships with consultants and use them well!

We have learnt the value of an accurate and solid baseline;

There are various issues with forming a good baseline but one of the most common is the skill set of your consultants in doing the survey work.

Up until very recently, the skill of habitat classification and specifically botany was retained for a few specialists and their application to project work was sporadic. In traditional ecology consultancy, the role of botanists almost felt like a dying art. BNG has flipped that completely on its head and now it’s very likely that the ecology industry is under resourced in having those people with the required skills to produce a good baseline to ensure your BNG is working off a sound base. Our botanists, the likes of Dr Lucie Sweet and Kinzie Watts have spent years and years perfecting the art and their work is incredibly important in ensuring our clients baselines are accurate but also in driving the standard of that work within the wider department. Establishing accurate and detailed baselines is not a job for an early career ecologist – at least not one without any support and help and whereas producing a ‘phase 1 map’ was viewed as a fairly standard task in ecology – its function and importance has now completely changed.

Consider the seasons;

Nobody in the world of development likes the delays that ecology seasons can throw up. And so forward planning is key. But consider the importance of getting your ecologists to site when stuff is actually growing! If you want to challenge a baseline score or you want to be sure it’s accurate then the spring and early summer gives you the best chance of getting that right.

CPD  – get your consultants to teach you!

The metric isn’t complicated once you know it. But it’s new to all and so any help you can get in better understanding the metric, the mitigation hierarchy and BNG generally is worth it. At B&G we have delivered numerous free CPD sessions on BNG to our retained clients – either at their offices or at ours – maybe even with lunch thrown in too!

Again, build those relationships with your consultant teams and use them well!

2 – Design it with Landscape

How much time do you waste with variations of different plans from different consultants?

All too often you are probably instructing and paying for a BNG assessment with its accompanying management plan and a separate landscape masterplan or even detailed design – and yet these documents (and maybe the respective consultants!) are not talking to one another. Whereas our Head of Landscape, Rosemary Walker is an industry lead in LVIA, her colleagues; Leonie Brown, Henry Collier-Knight and James McGrath work incredibly closely with our ecologists (they’re in the same building) to ensure that landscape constraints are dovetailed with the demands of BNG. It allows for a constructive and design led solution and it means you are getting the best possible outputs from your consultant team. It’s not just a case of the ecologists telling the landscape architects what needs to go where – although there is plenty of that. But there can often be landscape constraints that need to be addressed and that need to work holistically with BNG for the best possible outcome. Either ensure your consultant teams are working closely together or build a relationship with a firm who does the lot – it will save you yet more time, hassle and money!

3 – Implement it with Contracting

You may sell your site with a consent – and as such this section of the article will offer little relevance. But if you are building out your consent then read on!

BNG will inevitably drive a skill shortage in the implementation of on-site habitat creation and enhancement.

When we speak to many developers they have been long time suffers of poor landscape installations. The wrong plants in the wrong places, poor planting and prep, no watering, poorly staked and planted trees – it’s all too common and sadly why our landscape architects are asked to produce site audits.

And so if the wider landscape industry struggles with the delivery of what’s hardly changed in the last 20/30 years then what possible hope does it have with wildflower meadows, wetlands, woodland planting, marginal planting, open mosaic – the list and the complexity is endless. What’s more – you are tied into its management and target condition for 30 years – and so it has to be right. It’s not a quick whip round on a sit on mower and a spray of herbicide on the footpaths!

The management of native habitats can actually be quite cheap and simple. It’s often light touch with the emphasis on doing the right things at the right time in a year. But the establishment is often more complex. To dispel a myth (for example) – you do not create a wildflower meadow by throwing a seed mix on the ground without knowing your soil type and the type of seed mix you are aiming to grow. Wildflower meadows are broad ranging and require different conditions.

Installed and managed correctly, native habitats can be a creative and beautiful addition to your sites – done badly they look an absolute mess – lacking colour, structure and tidiness.

When we founded our contracting division 6 or so years ago we did so to meet the demand for badger sett work or great crested newt fencing. We have been incredibly lucky to build a team of contractors with backgrounds in ecology, forestry, habitat management and the like – with colleagues who have worked for the National Trust or the Forestry Commission for example. Little did we know then that these skills are allowing us to not just plan and design BNG but to implement it on site – using the less common skills of our teams to do so.

Breaking new ground – it’s one thing knowing how to establish a wildflower meadow, translocate grassland or plant up a permanently wet attenuation, but at B&G we have been involved in ground breaking work in translocating and creating open mosaic habitats on a site in Derbyshire. The project is in its relative infancy but the early signs are positive and it provides yet another creative offering within our broad skill base that you can draw upon to help you move sites forward.

There is no doubt that BNG is going to change the shape of development forever – so having the right support in place to give you the ability to best tackle it is more important than ever. Build robust relationships with your consultants and make them an intrinsic part of what you do.

For further details of any of the services mentioned in the article or to reach out for free CPD and advice then either call us on 0800 222 9105 or email info@brindlegreen.co.uk. We’d love to help!
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Posted on: 23 February 2024
Posted in: Company News

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