At this year’s Highways UK, Copper Consultancy hosted an in-person panel event at Highways UK on biodiversity implementation. The event, chaired by Copper Director for Infrastructure and Major Projects Andrew Weaver, focused on the role the sector could play in enhancing biodiversity on projects and the value add of new initiatives – featuring insight from Kate Vincent (Atkins), Howard Gray (GreenBlue Urban), Liz Allchin (Jacobs) and Joanna Gilroy (Balfour Beatty plc).
The key takeaway from the session focused on the need for biodiversity implementation at the early stages of the project lifecycle. All panellists agreed that, too often, biodiversity is seen as a blocker to projects’ acceptance, with net zero goals being deemed “too hard” to achieve.
Dismantling these myths and heightening overall awareness and education of concepts like biodiversity net gain can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Kate Vincent emphasised the importance of digital collaboration, as well as valuing the local knowledge of the stakeholders; adding that many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are being listened to.
Liz Allchin, meanwhile, noted that “we need to look at biodiversity from the perspective of habitats and not species” pointing out that too often biodiversity is only thought of at the end of the project. Especially when project teams are heavily engineering-focused, there is a need for senior leadership teams to make sure that the ecological aspects aren’t overlooked.
Joana Gilroy also highlighted the need to transition away from the traditional cost/benefit analysis of road projects, arguing that the industry needs to find a way to value ecosystems, as well as stop focusing on who pays for adding to areas’ biodiversity. Ultimately, it’s all of us that will lose out if flora and fauna are sabotaged without mitigation measures in place.
With the requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain in all Nationally Significant Infrastructure projects incoming in November 2023, panellist Howards Gray rightfully acknowledged that biodiversity is no longer going to be a ‘nice thing to have’. For this to succeed, the cost, social and ecological aspects must be valued equally. There is a need for planners and developers to look at projects holistically and link biodiversity goals to other KPIs – ensuring that the strategic objectives of the projects are clearly understood at the start of the project lifecycle.
To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Biodiversity Net Gain from February 2022, click here.