A holistic approach to Biodiversity Net Gain – Thakeham’s perspective on the new legislation

Rob Boughton, CEO, Thakeham

On Monday 12 February, new legislation was introduced, requiring all new planning applications to deliver a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) – essentially supporting more nature than was there before development.

This is a hugely positive step for wildlife and for housebuilders, creating more sustainable developments and demonstrating that new homes and environmental benefits can be delivered together. Thakeham has been a leader in this field for several years now, achieving or exceeding the now mandatory 10% BNG on all sites since 2020 and recognising that nature is more complex than just the numbers.

Thakeham Chief Executive Officer, Rob Boughton, was invited to share a developer’s perspective on the legislation this week (12 March) at the Surrey Nature Partnership Biodiversity & Planning Conference 2024.

Speaking before a large hybrid audience, Rob shared insights on achieving a holistic approach to nature recovery and the wider opportunities beyond what is currently measured on the scorecard. Thakeham averages 15.47% BNG on its sites, with more than half of its applications achieving 20% or more. There are cases where even more nature recovery is possible, as proved at Martingales, a development in Surrey, where 121 metres of new hedgerows, 1,675m squared of wildflower grassland and 885m squared marsh grassland resulted in a BNG of 41.38%. Woodcrete bat boxes, hedgehog houses and highways in fences, to allow hedgehogs to forage and shelter, also enhanced the habitat.​

Through partnership with wildlife organisations including Plantlife and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Thakeham is able to innovate. A community meadow maze, rich in wildflowers, at the Woodgate development in Pease Pottage contributed to the Buglife’s b-line project insect highway. An award-winning children’s story book following the adventures of Eddie and Ellie has encouraged awareness-raising, and has, so far, engaged over 400 local pupils in classroom and outdoor settings.

Thakeham has also gone another step further this year, with a sector-leading commitment to installing an average of one swift brick per Thakeham home, despite that not currently being recognised as a BNG contributor on the scorecard. The developer has supported author and campaigner, Hannah Bourne-Taylor​, in government meetings and within the Future Homes Hub in her fight against the decline of the swift due to loss of habitat.

Rob stressed the importance of building homes with both people and wildlife in mind and welcomed the new legislation while calling the sector to look wider, think wilder and go above and beyond for nature recovery, stating “whether you’re involved in the creation of new communities or are looking after established spaces, we believe in the opportunity to show how people and nature can thrive alongside each other in harmony.”

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