A York ‘nature restoration’ business has just recruited 15 staff as it expects business to blossom by showing developers how their project must benefit the environment if they are to gain planning approval.

The new Environment Act is about to make biodiversity net gain (BNG) mandatory for new developments and infrastructure projects.

By giving guidance and support, the Environment Bank which has a new office at the University of York has staffed up to help make this happen for their clients, increasing staff numbers from 5 to 21, with plans to expand further.

Its recent recruits include ecologists, marketing, operational and legal experts, such as CEO James Cross, formerly Chief Executive of Natural England, Ecology Director Emma Toovey, Head of Operations Dana Foster and Commercial Director Alexis Perry.

The business has created a ‘credits’ scheme, which calculates how a planning application may impact a habitat, and how this can be offset in some other way. If developers do not, their application is more likely to fail.

These credits are the first of their kind in England and promise a readymade, risk-free service to landowners, planning authorities and developers.

Environment Bank’s founder, Professor David Hill, CBE, created the concept of biodiversity net gain in 2007 and has long campaigned for it to be mandated into planning law.

Prof Hill said: “We have been waiting for this moment for many years and we are incredibly pleased and proud to see it finally become law. All credit to Defra and Natural England for ensuring its inclusion in the Act.”

“BNG means leaving the natural environment in a better state than before a development or infrastructure project was built. Ensuring this happens via the planning process has now been made law through the Environment Act. This presents a greater opportunity than ever before to restore nature across our country at scale. This is critical because we have seen an unprecedented 60% decline in biodiversity over the past five decades”.

Environment Bank was founded in 2005 and operates across the UK. It sees its work in helping the country fight climate being a catalyst for a change in how the UK does development in the years to come.

Chief Executive, James Cross, confirmed: “We have the largest, most experienced team of BNG experts in the country, and a robust, risk-free process in place for delivering BNG at scale. The first of hundreds of habitat banks will open before Christmas which will enable developers to deliver against their new legal requirements, in a simple and straightforward way, rather than risk planning permission being refused.”

Mr Cross added: “Even though we have grown at a rapid pace, we all share a common set of values and a shared vision. A vision built around our new plan for the planet, which will achieve enhancement to nature and unlock sustainable growth.”