The concept of net environmental gain accompanying development, is growing and there is increasing discussion about what it means and how it could be applied. In short, net gain means that in addition to protecting environmental features when undertaking development, there should also be a requirement to see an improvement in nature. This is already becoming more established for terrestrial development, such as house building, and is recognised as a requirement down to mean low water (i.e. the intertidal zone), but as yet there is no clear policy or requirement for net gain in the marine environment. Building biodiversity into new and existing infrastructure is one method to meet the future net gain requirement.
What is currently happening
The Solent Forum, working with Artecology and others, are establishing an information hub on building biodiversity into coastal infrastructure as a service for Solent Forum members.
A BBS Working Group has been set up to guide the hub and the notes of the inaugral meeting (see link above) provide a work programme. A terms of reference (above) has also been agreed. The hub will be launched officially in Spring 2020, and in the meantime the Forum will be gathering information forthe hub. One of the key ways the Forum will obtain information, especially case studies, will be by sending out a pro-forma to all organisations involved in building biodiversity. The Forumwuill also be developing the structure of these web-pages so that they are relevant and esy to use.
The Solent has all the key issues that need to be considered in developing ecologically sound coastal infrastructure, and would provide a useful pilot for the rest of the country. It has major infrastructure such as roads, rail, airports, ports, water treatment works and energy provision alongside dense centres of population that further increase through the summer tourist season. This is backed by a tight urban boundary with intensive and extensive agriculture, significant competing economic interests, multi-designated sites of environmental protection, and a strong set of academic institutions. Major issues that the Solent has to contend with include: flood defence, water and air quality, developable space, coastal squeeze, loss of biodiversity, economic disparity and fragility and transitions in coastal land use and land management.
Ideas that the hub could provide information on include ecological design for new infrastructure, the construction and design of habitats and natural systems to recover, repair or sustain flood defences, boosting biodiversity, growing fisheries, and improving air and water quality. It could also help to drive research and innovation and field test new ideas for deployment.
Forum work delivered on this topic
The Forum has already begun to deliver on this topic by working with the Environment Agency to publicise existing work on ecological enhancement of the coast. A further project has been delivered for the Environment Agency on Opportunity Mapping in Southampton Water (see below)