Natural Capital Planning Tool launched today

  • 6 Mar 2018

Urban Green proud to be project partner - Today sees the launch of the Natural Capital Planning Tool (NCPT), developed by the University of Birmingham with support from many UK organisations including Urban Green.

With a UK wide Natural Capital assessment promised within the Governments 25 Year Environmental Plan this type of valuation is set to become the norm within land permissions, planning and design decision making.

As Case Study Project Partners, Urban Green have been working alongside the NCPT developers at the University of Birmingham to help refine the tool’s content and fitness for purpose.

The Natural Capital Planning Tool  provides an accessible method for ‘planning authorities and developers to better assess and manage the long-term impacts of proposed development on Natural Capital’.  The assessment covers 10 ecosystem services: harvested products, biodiversity, aesthetic values, recreation, water quality regulation, flood risk regulation, air quality regulation, local and global climate regulation.

Want to know more?

In the rest of this article, we want to provide some insight into the mysteries of Natural Capital and demonstrate how this new tool and Urban Green can help the development of a Natural Capital mindset.

Explaining Natural Capital

Natural Capital is the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources that comprise the building blocks for human life.

Natural processes called ecosystem services that occur within these environments are critical to human life and help to benefit us all.  These are the processes that regulate the carbon in the air and soil, recycle water and protect against flooding, filter the air of harmful pollutants, and, provide us with the food, fuel and building materials that we so desperately need.  In addition, they provide cultural services, with nature providing us with an invaluable resource for both mental and physical stimulation, whilst giving wildlife a space to live and be enjoyed by everyone.

Natural Capital Accounting helps to retain and maximise these beneficial processes by qualifying and quantifying their extent within monetary and non-monetary valuations, obtained through both an avoidance of costs or via direct increases in value.

What are they worth?

As an example, a recent assessment of London’s Street Trees undertaken by Treeconomics London, found their worth per annum equivalent to £68.1 million in pollution removal; £2.2 million in stormwater alleviation; £116 million in carbon storage; and, £23,600 in building energy savings.

Being able to assess these processes by the application of monetary values leaves them unambiguous in interpretation, whilst gives them a significant weight in land management and resource allocations decisions.  The extent to which these benefits are accrued is dependent upon their incorporation, protection and management within our designs, where areas of green and blue infrastructure within developments should be managed to maximise Natural Capital.

Why should we care?

Clearly our day to day lives are completely dependent upon Natural Capital, but so too is our business.

Quantifying and protecting the Natural Capital upon which our businesses depend, will not only safeguard the environmental resources required for production, but increase both production revenues and resilience.

Designing spaces based upon their Natural Capital allows for an assessment in service trade-offs to obtain the highest net benefits, helps to build a society that can maintain a healthy and resilient natural environment and, achieves added values within a holistic and collaborative working process.

So why now?

This method of environment valuation has long been recognised, already underpinning many of the UK (and world) environmental laws and policies.

Within a post-Brexit climate, the UK Government has now made a strong commitment to Natural Capital becoming commonplace within future planning decisions:

“the UK intends to use a ‘natural capital’ approach as a tool to help us make key choices and long-term decisions….we want to put the environment at the heart of planning and development to create better places for people to live and work….we want to expand the net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits, such as flood protection, recreation and improved water and air quality.” (HM Government 2018).

How can Natural Capital and Urban Green help you?

Making assessment of Natural Capital allows you to take stock of the natural benefits within your ownership, to provide clear design and management strategies and to achieve the greatest net gains for the least management costs, whilst helping to secure more successful planning applications.

Urban Green is at the forefront of this growing initiative.  We are continuing to develop our ideas and methods within Natural Capital Accounting for our clients, taking a pro-active approach in exploring the use of various tools and assessment methodologies, to help facilitate more holistic site designs and strategic land choices.

Please get in touch for more information.

Rosie McEwing, Ecologist

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