As bid writing consultants, the scope of our work includes staying abreast with the latest updates and amendments to legislation, compliance and industry-specific best practice.
This includes analysing the latest Procurement Policy Notes issued from the Cabinet Office, monitoring progress of the long-awaited Procurement Bill and discussing the challenges and opportunities artificial intelligence presents to bid writing.
The latest change in the tender process to come to our attention is around biodiversity net gain (BNG). Defined by DEFRA as ‘a way to contribute to the recovery of nature while developing land,’ BNG will mandate all developers and local authorities to ensure local habitats and areas are left in a better state than before development.
In this blog, we will explore how BNG is defined, its anticipated effects on public sector bidding and how your organisation can prepare to meet the evolving requirements.
Biodiversity net gain – its legislative journey
On 2 December 2018, then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a public consultation on mandating biodiversity net gain for all UK construction and development projects. The concept was first introduced into legislation by the Environment Act 2021, which declared that all planning permissions on medium and large sites must deliver a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain by November 2023.
Small sites are only given a five-month grace period, and will be required to adhere by April 2024. The purpose of the grace period is to permit SMEs and smaller developers delivering projects time to effectively train and gain a working knowledge of BNG – ensuring they are not at a competitive disadvantage. To support this, The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management offers several BNG training courses depending on your organisational needs.
BNG will be measured for 30 years, ensuring consistent and long-term environmental outcomes as a result of development. To support this, DEFRA have created their Biodiversity Metric, allowing a competent person (such as an ecologist) to use a common calculation tool to measure performance. The British Standards Institute has also created two relevant standards to support achievement – BS 42020, which outlines a code of practice for BNG planning and development, and BS 8683, which establishes the processes for its design and implementation.
How will this affect the bid and tender process?
Once the legislation comes into effect in November, purchasing authorities will be legally required to ensure all projects within their administrative boundaries adhere to BNG standards. The Local Government Association has published an overview of resources and suggested policy updates, including declaring a climate/ecological emergency, working with resident stakeholders and handling a potential rush of non-BNG planning applications.
Our bid and tender writing team have already begun encountering questions around BNG when completing construction tenders. For instance, the following was included in a question set several months ago:
“… Please detail how you will identify and design biodiversity net gains into this project, and details of how the proposed methodology will incorporate net biodiversity into its construction and completion…”
The above example illustrates how authorities will expect comprehensive plans for achieving BNG during the design, delivery and completion phase of each project. This means bidders could see a significant increase in questions related to biodiversity net gain within the following topics:
- Planning and mobilisation: During the design period, evaluators may expect a portion of planning to be allocated towards achieving the minimum 10% habitat improvement. Consequently, all aspects of BNG should be integrated into standard mobilisation procedures, such as agreeing measures with buyer representatives, securing service level agreements with suppliers for necessary materials and establishing timeframes for progress during the delivery phase.
- Environmental management and sustainability: Evidently, BNG will be a crucial environmental topic across all UK development projects, no matter the size and scope, by April 2024. In addition to typical environmental measures such as reducing carbon emissions, minimising waste and maintaining sustainable supply chains, authorities could also expect you to have a comprehensive plan which will ensure adherence to BNG targets.
- Monitoring progress and performance: To measure progress with the agreed programme of works, buyers will often query your systems and procedures for tracking KPI performance, customer satisfaction and other metrics. Provisions should also be made for ensuring consistent and correct tracking of BNG outcomes and taking corrective action where necessary.
As with our example question from a previous tender, it is also possible that future tenders may see authorities include an entire question around how projects will achieve BNG – requiring a project-specific plan with input from subject matter experts and director-level signoff.
How bidders can prepare
In the intermediary period between the introduction of BNG and its legal requirement, it is essential to begin making preparations and generating commitments which support the minimum 10% improvement threshold. Although it is important to tailor initiatives to the site characteristics and assets in order to make the tender persuasive, proposals could include:
- Green infrastructure: Multi-functional spaces on site can allow for the incorporation of green spaces alongside the built environment, through small parks, planting of trees, bushes and vegetation, and green roofs and facades, which can deliver energy savings of up to 10% in addition to offsetting carbon emissions.
- Restoration and regeneration: When it is not feasible to avoid or completely reduce environmental impacts resulting from site development, restoration and regeneration programmes are a suitable alternative. This could consist of rewilding portions of the site, ensuring bird boxes/swift bricks are built onto assets and creating wildlife corridors, such as hedgehog holes, to ensure animals can travel to and from site.
- Off-site credits: As a last resort, developers and contractors can achieve BNG by purchasing ‘credits’ to large habitat creation projects outside of the red-line development area by making a financial contribution to the authority or an agreed offsite provider. This is likely to be highly regulated and could be excluded from the contract by buyers – making it acceptable only as a last resort.
As with social value commitments, it is crucial to be realistic and ensure proposals are tenable and feasible. BNG is likely to form a contractual KPI, and failure to reach targets may result in a financial penalty.
Bid and tender services for your organisation
We are highly experienced at adapting to evolving legislation and ensuring this is reflected in tender responses, as evidenced by our 14 years’ experience and support in over 7,000 SQ and ITT submissions. To find out more about our bid and tender management services, you can discuss opportunities or receive a free, no-obligation quote by contacting our sales and marketing team at 0800 612 5563 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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