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Managing a habitat bank for biodiversity net gain – a practical guide to what’s involved

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Environment Bank is leasing parcels of land to co-create biologically diverse habitats that will play a key role in addressing the critical issue of biodiversity loss whilst providing long-term income to landowners.

With the farming landscape in the UK changing so dramatically in recent years, leaving many generational farmers facing reduced financial support as well as increased costs, the pressure is really on over how to make land generate a return.

Many farmers are facing the stark reality of dwindling subsidies, so it’s never been more urgent for farmers and landowners to explore securing long-term methods of creating diversified and sustainable income streams to safeguard their future.

But with so many new schemes emerging – from solar to carbon capture to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – to try to tackle this challenge alone comes with extra pressures on an already beleaguered industry.

Cameron Chester ecologist Rob Wreglesworth principal ecologist and landowner Tim Easby © Environment Bank

Which schemes are out there and which are right for them, will they work, what are the legal and specialist implications, and of course, the potential risks involved if it goes pear shaped, resulting in their investment and their valuable time going down the drain, can be daunting.

Understanding what is involved in new schemes in practical terms can be challenging, but there is one easy solution and many farmers are now benefiting from generous payments from BNG specialists Environment Bank for the establishment of habitat banks.

Since launching its award-winning habitat bank scheme last year, Environment Bank has seen enquiries soar, with over 60 new sites expected to be established in 2023.

It is partnering with farmers and landowners – including Tim Easby from Oak Stile Farm, North Yorkshire, and Toby Diggens, from Puddington Moor Farm, Devon – establishing habitat banks on their land through its privately funded management scheme that guarantees an income for 30 years.

But what is involved and how does it work?

How habitat banks benefit landowners

A crucial benefit is that farmers retain ownership of the land, with Environment Bank taking a lease interest.

The management plan is tailored to suit the landowner’s existing land management strategy and sources of funding, as well as ensuring the most tax-efficient solution.

Being already fully funded, Environment Bank typically arranges lease and management payments within 20 weeks of registration, and covers all costs for establishing and managing the habitat banks, extending to legal and tax advice where appropriate.

It has a ready-made solution, so unlike brokerage models, farmers do not have to manage the complex implementation process or take any of the risk of the scheme failing. All of that sits with Environment Bank.

Farmers receive an on-boarding fee, their first year’s rent upfront, and then annual payments with fixed annual uplifts to counteract inflation.

Environment Bank covers all costs for establishing and managing the habitat bank, extending to legal fees, financial and tax advice, with all liability resting with them.

The goal of Environment Bank is to establish a network of habitat banks in every area of England to restore biodiversity and help farmers achieve this all whilst protecting their assets, making it a win-win situation for hard-pressed farmers.

Toby Diggens Puddington Moor Farm Habitat Bank © Environment Bank

How it works

habitat banks can be created on all types of land, including currently unproductive areas, old pasture and scrubland as well as under-performing arable land, across the acreage and designed on a bespoke basis.


  1. Landowner registers interest with Environment Bank
  2. An introduction meeting will be arranged between the lead ecologist and landowner
  3. The land will be assessed and a planting scheme and management plan agreed and the lease is signed
  4. Environment Bank will then liaise with the local planning authority or responsible body to enable them to sell BNG Units from the habitat bank and handle all legalities in-house with no cost or risk to the landowner
  5. Ecologists, working alongside the landowners and often third party contractors where required, will undertake the habitat creation which will then be managed by the landowner going forward
  6. The habitat bank is monitored regularly by Environment Bank and the necessary statutory reporting undertaken by its team

Cycle of review

  • Over the 30 year lease, Environment Bank will monitor and review annually, and periodically return to reassess the land to ensure it is on target and are always on hand to landowners for advice and support throughout the term
  • Each year at the annual management review, the team will discuss what works and what doesn’t and the ecologist will tweak the plan accordingly. Environment Bank works flexibly with the landowner to resolve any issues, reacting to climate changes over the 30 year period to achieve the target habitat condition

Case study: The management schedule on a habitat bank

How the land is managed depends on the management plan agreed with the landowner and how the habitat bank will work alongside other farm enterprises.

It will be monitored regularly by ecologists at Environment Bank, and the progress reported back annually to the local planning authority or responsible body as part of their BNG obligations.

For grassland, for example, each year, the fields will be closed off during flowering season and the land keeper can take a hay cut once wild flowers have bloomed.

In the autumn, the ground can be used for grazing, before livestock come back off the land again in March to allow the flora and fauna to bloom again, attracting rare species including birds and insects.

Native shrubs are often planted around the perimeters of the grasslands and livestock fenced out from the area to allow new shrubs to grow. Once established, the fencing will come down and the livestock can graze in the open habitats.

Ecologists may put in ponds and wet scrapes if required to attract bird species such as endangered curlew and lapwing to breed and encourage more rare species of wildlife.

The land is managed in this way by the landowner – or generations of landowner – over a minimum 30 year period to allow for a fully biodiverse habitat to be established.

What do landowners involved in the scheme think?

Speaking of the establishment of a habitat bank at Oak Stile Farm, North Yorkshire, Tim Easby said:  “We are delighted that Oak Stile Farm is hosting a habitat bank so that we can do our bit to enhance local biodiversity.

“We took ownership of this former dairy farm over 20 years ago and have begun to enhance areas for wildlife with sections of woodland planting and new hedgerows.

We have always wanted to do more and Environment Bank’s habitat bank scheme allows us to enhance large areas of our grasslands for wildlife at a scale we couldn’t do before in a financially sustainable way.”

Many landowners and farmers are signing up to the scheme, and there is none more passionate about the benefits of habitat bank creation than one of the first farmer’s to sign up to the programme, Toby Diggens from Puddington Moor Farm.

“Being involved in such a ground-breaking project was important to me, as it’s one of the ways we can contribute to restoring nature and help reverse the environmental crisis,” he said.

“There are so many benefits to protecting wildlife and nature fundamentally, but this partnership also allows us to guarantee an income for the next 30 years on land which we would have to conventionally farm very hard to see any profit.”

To find out more about the habitat bank creation options for your land, please call our team on 01904 202 990 or visit