Biodiversity fund appeals to landowners

Landowners interested in managing land for the benefit of wildlife are being asked to come forward and potentially benefit from £20 million of new ‘biodiversity offsetting’ funding.

The news follows the proposals made by Defra in September that could see farmers offered payments in exchange for the creation or restoration of wildlife habitats, and a landmark partnership between farming and food supply chain group, AB Agri, and biodiversity offsetting brokers, the Environment Bank.

Under the proposal, the new funding would be derived from the sale of ‘conservation credits’ to developers who need to offset their environmental impact.

“Through the new partnership, we are aiming to create or restore 1,000 hectares of valuable wildlife habitats delivered through £20 million of new offset funding,” says David Langlands, of AB Agri’s AB Sustain division.

Biodiversity offsetting is a tool available to developers who have already followed the normal on-site steps to ‘avoid and mitigate’ their environmental impact; offsetting can then be deployed to compensate for any residual loss of wildlife habitat. This residual impact is quantified by the Environment Bank using government metrics and compensated for through investment in biodiversity restoration and long-term management on nearby sites. The overall result will be a gain in the quantity and quality of UK biodiversity.

Professor David Hill, Chair of the Environment Bank, said: “A commitment to biodiversity conservation of this type and scale has never been seen before from within the UK food and farming industry and it is an indicator of how the private sector is recognising and responding to UK biodiversity decline. Historically, development and agriculture have had the biggest impact on our natural environment, so this new agreement demonstrates a major turning point in how these two sectors are now working together to prevent biodiversity loss in a practical and tangible way”.

Dr Tom Tew, Chief Executive of the Environment Bank, said: “This is an unprecedented chance to create a robust network of wildlife habitats on hundreds of farms across the UK. Until now, residual impact to biodiversity from development has been ignored or inadequately compensated for – leading to biodiversity loss. Biodiversity offsetting provides a comprehensive habitat impact assessment for developers, resulting in fair and objective compensation that will deliver a new funding stream for habitat restoration and long-term conservation management of UK biodiversity.”

David Yiend, Chief Executive of AB Agri, said: “This is a tremendously exciting opportunity for UK landowners. Biodiversity offsetting offers our farmers the opportunity for long-term income in return for conservation-based land management. The price of the conservation activities is set by the landowner and is dependent on the amount of activity being undertaken. Perhaps most importantly the landowner maintains control over the long-term management of the land and the offset does not affect their access and ownership. ”