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Please find below answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding ReNature Credits.

If there is anything not answered below, please contact Mark Alden on 01730 819303 or 07850570297

Alternatively, email ReNaturecredits@southdowns.gov.uk

  • What are Nature-based solutions and Green Financing?

    The NBS Initiative describes Nature-based Solutions as the process of working with nature to address societal challenges, providing benefits for both human well-being and biodiversity.

    The World Economic Forum defines Green finance as any structured financial activity that’s been created to ensure a better environmental outcome.

    The Dasgupta Report articulates how much our economies, livelihoods and well-being all rely on nature.

    However, nature’s resilience is being severely eroded, with biodiversity declining faster than at any time in human history.

    Though our health and well-being is dependent upon the continued flow of ecosystem services afforded to us by nature, these services have largely fallen outside our current economic framework.

    Green Financing to secure Nature-based Solutions seeks to help overcome this market failure by monetising ecosystem services and  creating a functioning market for them.

    Within the South Downs, these markets are now emerging, with Nutrient and Biodiversity credits being sought by developers to offset where this cannot be achieved on site against loss of habitat occurring through their activities and to achieve an overall gain in habitat.

    In addition, there is now increasing interest in home-grown Carbon Credits, offsetting UK Carbon within our own landscape.

    The South Downs National Park is working to ensure that these markets operate in a way that both maximises the benefit for nature, whilst not jeopardising the path to Net Zero.

  • How can Green Finance support Nature-based solutions?

    The mechanisms to address societal and biodiversity challenges are dependent on the identification of market places, both compliance and voluntary, and the subsequent coupling of these market places with specific ecosystem services.

    These are now emerging through changes in UK regulation, such as the Environment Act 2021, key aspects of which are coming into force later this year.

    These require polluters or offsetters to counteract any environmental damage resulting from their actions, by improving the environment or storing carbon elsewhere. These environmental improvements are often delivered by farmers, predominantly on poor soils or less productive land.

  • What are ReNature Credits?

    Renature Credits are National Park-approved offsets, strategically selected to deliver maximum gains for nature.

    Currently we are focused on Biodiversity Net Gain units, Nitrate and Phosphate Credits, though we are also looking to bring forward Carbon Credits in the near future.

    These credits are sourced from sites that we have assessed to deliver great potential for nature and will be delivered at scale (meeting the Lawton Principles of “Bigger Better and More Joined Up”) and will be delivered through trusted partners. The National Park will assure these credits by providing ongoing support to the landowner, helping them to deliver maximum benefits for biodiversity.

  • What is a Compliance Market?

    The compliance market is the result of a legal requirement, stipulated by Local Planning Authorities, in the approval of building developments to mitigate for any damage caused to nature and/or to meet requirements for net gains for nature.

    Depending on geography and development type, different types of Credit will be required such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), Phosphates and Nitrates.

    Compliance Credits brokered by the South Downs National Park Authority are termed ReNature Credits, to signal the official endorsement of the SDNPA that these Credits will be put to best use to restore nature within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park.

  • What is a Voluntary Market?

    The voluntary market provides a mechanism for the purchase of Nature-based Solutions by philanthropic parties. Voluntary Biodiversity Units can be sold to Corporates wishing to address nature depletion or bolster ESG credentials.

  • Why is the SDNPA getting involved?

    Through the Environment Improvement Plan (2023) [1] the government has already set a goal to raise at least £500 million in private finance to support nature’s recovery every year by 2027 in England, rising to more than £1 billion by 2030.

    The Environment Act 2021, Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) (‘The Habitats Regulations’), provide the legislative framework for ReNature Credits. The Habitats Regulations afford the SDNPA powers as the ‘Competent Authority’ to secure mitigation land that can be utilised to deliver nitrates and phosphates offsetting. As the Local Planning Authority (LPA), and the roles and responsibilities therein, power is also afforded for BNG to be secured through the planning system.

    Mitigating for development is enshrined in law, and offsetting activities are happening across the country, including in the South Downs National Park. However, the creation of Credits is often done in a piecemeal way that doesn’t always support nature, join up habitats or think about the larger picture. In short, the market has been failing nature.

    Given its unique place as both Local Planning Authority and custodian of this special landscape, the South Downs National Park Authority can use its expertise to deliver strategic renaturing projects in partnership with landowners that have the Lawton principles at their core. By unlocking new finance for nature and supporting landowners with sustainable incomes, nature restoration can be planned and scaled in a way that has not been possible before.

  • Where do ReNature credits come from?

    The SDNPA is working with a number of strategic ReNature Sites across the South Downs National Park to restore nature and re-vitalise a financially precarious land-based sector at a time of transition since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016.

  • Where are the ReNature sites and how are they chosen?

    The SDNPA benefits from a comprehensive overarching restoration vision for nature recovery in the landscape.

    In response to this, the SDNPA embarked on a public process in 2022 to identify potential nature sites through a call for sites.

    From this open process and, in collaboration with technical experts, corporate partners, statutory bodies and landowner partners, a number of strategic sites were identified as being best placed to support nature recovery at scale aligned to the overarching restoration vision for the landscape.

    The principles of our ReNature Sites were set out from the inception as:

    • Informed by our public call for nature sites.
    • Not piecemeal.
    • Led by a wider National Park/Landowner vision to deliver nature recovery at scale.
    • Informed by Lawton principles of “Bigger, Better more joined up.”
    • Complementary to the wider nature restoration vision for the landscape.
    • We will not actively pursue stacking but will consider it when financially necessary or where evidenced opportunity for renaturing gains will occur.
    • For public benefit, through increased access or improved experience where possible.
    • Matched with its nearest available development, given the criteria above.

    Please see our current ReNature Sites page to learn more about where our sites are and the vision for nature. We hope and anticipate that more sites will be added in the future.

  • How does the South Downs National Park benefit from this?

    There are a number of benefits to the SDNPA:

    1) Currently 25% of the South Downs National Park is managed for nature, and one of the three strategic goals of the National Park is to increase that to 33% by 2030; this equates to converting 13,000 hectares of land into being managed for nature. While some landowners may like the idea of giving land over to nature, it may be impossible without financial support. Through ReNature credits, landowners will no longer be penalised for wanting to do right by nature and by facilitating the process, the SDNPA can help ReNature more of the National Park.

    2) By acting as a facilitator between developers and landowners, the SDNPA plays an active role in realising the restoration visions of its landowner partners.  In exchange for guidance and consultancy services the SDNPA receives a commission that covers its costs in relation to the relevant scheme.

    3) By taking a strategic approach to nature recovery, the South Downs National Park is creating bigger, better and more joined up habitat sites across the landscape. If the SDNPA didn’t take a lead role, the alternative would be more tokenistic, piecemeal approaches, which don’t support nature recovery and don’t benefit the rural economy that plays such an important part in societal well-being.

  • Will turning land over to nature affect food production?

    It’s not financially logical for farmers to give up their best land for nature, which is why typically the land chosen to restore habitats is more marginal land.

    This land also tends to neighbour existing habitats, adding scale and connectedness in line with Lawton principles.

    Some habitat land can also still be used for low-intensity grazing with the environment as the focus rather than the livestock.

  • What does “monetising ecosystem services” mean?

    Ecosystem services come from our natural capital – our natural assets that provide valuable resources to people in a range of different ways.

    Though our economies, livelihoods and well-being rely heavily on the continued flow of these ecosystem services afforded to us by nature, these services are public goods with very few or no markets and no prices and so fall outside of our current economic compass.

    The SDNPA has identified huge potential to overcome this market failure by monetising ecosystem services in the UK by mainstreaming the market for them.

    If markets for ecosystem services can be established then we can demonstrate climate leadership, protect nature, unlock private finances to deliver nature recovery and provide alternative income streams for landowners who find their businesses are financially precarious.

  • What is offsetting?

    Offsetting (in the context of development) is the practice of counterbalancing to compensate for the impact of development.

  • Why is offsetting needed?

    Sometimes it is not possible to address the impact through on-site measures.

    The Mitigation Hierarchy is a widely utilised tool that helps guide users towards limiting the negative impacts on biodiversity from development projects.

    It emphasises best practice in avoiding and minimising negative impacts, and then restoring wherever possible before finally offsetting any residual impacts.

    When it comes to BNG a cascade of offsetting is emerging that prioritise on-site mitigation, then off site where it is strategically important and locally relevant via near-site mitigation, and finally as a last resort, ‘further away’.

    Further away would initially mean within the wider district or national landscape character and, secondarily, be national.

  • What is biodiversity net gain (BNG)?

    Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is an approach to development, and/or land management, that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand.

    BNG delivers measurable improvements for biodiversity by creating or enhancing habitats in association with development. BNG can be achieved on-site, off-site or through a combination of on-site and off-site measures.

    The Environment Act 2021 makes it a requirement for relevant types of development to achieve a mandatory minimum of 10% BNG calculated through the Government’s Biodiversity Metric. This mandatory requirement is expected to ‘go live’ in November 2023 following the publish of the BNG Regulations.

    It should be noted that Local Plan Policy SD9(1)(b) requires development proposals to ‘identify and incorporate opportunities for net gains in biodiversity’. The SDNPA has published interim guidance on addressing Biodiversity Net Gain in accordance with the policy of the SDLP in the run up to the mandatory BNG requirement.

  • What role will the SDNPA play?

    The SDNPA are looking to play an active role in ensuring that any landowners who hold aspirations of reversion of their current conventional agricultural operations on their land to habitat creation is done so in line with the Lawton Principles of; “bigger, better and more joined up biodiversity”.(Lawton, 2010, Making Space for Nature)

    This is achieved through collaborative working, ensuring Restoration Visions are created harmoniously and in synergy with the Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS), the SDNP Nature Recovery Network (NRN) Mapping and the SDNP Woodland Opportunities Mapping.

  • Why is there a need to offset nitrates?

    Natural England describe nutrient neutrality as, “a means of ensuring that a development plan or project does not add to existing nutrient burdens within catchments, so there is no net increase in nutrients as a result of the plan or project.”  One of these nutrient burdens is nitrogen or nitrates.

    Within the South Downs National Park there are three river catchments that are affected by nitrates:The East Hampshire Catchment and Chichester Catchment drain towards the Solent SPA, SAC and Ramsar designated sites, and the Itchen Catchment, that drains towards the River Itchen SAC.

    To find out more about Nutrient Neutrality visit this page for more information.

    The preference is always to alleviate the impact of pollution in wastewater on site.

    However, when this is not possible Natural England accept that Nitrate Mitigation will have to be delivered through an offsite mitigation scheme which offsets nitrates.

  • Why is there a need to offset phosphates?

    Natural England describe nutrient neutrality as, “a means of ensuring that a development plan or project does not add to existing nutrient burdens within catchments, so there is no net increase in nutrients as a result of the plan or project.” One of these nutrient burdens is Phosphorus or Phosphates.

    Within the South Downs National Park there is one river catchment that is affected by Phosphates:The Itchen Catchment, which drains towards the River Itchen SAC.

    To find out more about Nutrient Neutrality visit this page for more information.

    The preference is always to alleviate the impact of pollution in wastewater on site.

    However, when this is not possible Natural England accept that Phosphate Mitigation will have to be delivered through an offsite mitigation scheme which offsets Phosphates.

  • Why are you not offsetting carbon?

    In response to the climate change crisis, climate mitigation, in the form of Carbon Offsetting, has become an established mechanism both domestically and internationally. Currently a voluntary market, carbon can be created and verified through the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), which provides a quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects.

    Although there is appetite for woodland creation in the South Downs National Park, it is recognised that one of the main incentives for doing so, monetising carbon as an ecosystem services, is currently fraught with complications, including economic viability.

    Therefore, until solutions to the complications referred to above are discovered, we will not be looking to play an active role in offsetting local carbon.

    It is important to acknowledge the issues around incentivising landowners to commit to woodland creation and monetise their carbon through the WCC is a piece of work currently being conducted by the SDNPA in partnership with Palladium under the Revere Model. It is the hope of the SDNPA, that once a solution has been identified and adopted, that carbon offsetting becomes another mainstream ecosystem services mechanism.

  • Will this generate income for the SDNPA and how?

    Though the initiative will not generate profit it will provide revenues to support the necessary resource to deliver this nature recovery service.

    This will cover the necessary role within our planning departments and supporting services provided by Rangers and others to successfully achieve the desired Nature Recovery.

  • Can you explain how this commission works?

    In return for consultancy services, including, for example, guidance and advice in respect of the strategic approach of the landowner,  the design of the HMMP and facilitation of the sale of BNG units in the scheme, the SDNPA will receive a commission on sale of BNG units to cover the cost of the SNDPA’s activities in respect of the scheme.

  • What kind of income does it generate potentially, for example, per hectare?

    Credit prices depend on the type and quantity of nature restoration required.

    If you are interested in further information please contact ReNatureCredits@southdowns.gov.uk

  • Where will the income be spent?

    Any commission earned by the SDNPA will be applied to cover the cost of the SNPA’s activities in respect of the scheme including consultancy services delivered to the relevant landowner.

  • Why contact the SDNPA if you are seeking to purchase units in a particular scheme and not contact a landowner directly?

    The SDNPA may act as a facilitator for BNG schemes with which it is partnered, providing information and assistance to potential purchasers in the relevant scheme.

    It may be that the landowner is also available to provide information and to lend such assistance.

    This will depend on the landowner in question who may or may not appoint the SDNPA to this role.

    It may be that a potential purchaser can choose whether to contact the landowner or the SDNPA.

  • What is the application process?

    If a landowner is interested in selling ReNature Credits then the first step is to contact the SDNPA, which will carry out a site suitability assessment of the identified parcel of land to ensure it conforms to the Lawton Principles for making space for nature.

    If this initial assessment is successful then, depending on the ReNature Credit the landowner is interesting in selling, there are set application processes for each mechanism.

    For BNG visit the Government Website.

    For Nitrates or Phosphates visit Natural England’s Nutrient Calculator and Guidance courtesy of the Partnership of South Hampshire.

  • How do developers get involved?

    Anyone interested in acquiring credits can do so via the contact form or get in touch ReNatureCredits@southdowns.gov.uk

  • How do landowners get involved?

    Landowners can wait for future official Call for Sites campaigns, or can register their interest by emailing ReNatureCredits@southdowns.gov.uk

  • Why doesn’t the SDNPA just approve developments which don’t have an impact on nitrates, phosphates and biodiversity?

    This is unavoidable, all development will have an impact on the surrounding environment.

    This is why the Department for the Environment, along with other bodies, is developing regulation for mitigating this through positive action.

  • Doesn’t this just incentivise development in the National Park?

    No, planning applications will continue to be considered in the usual way.

    For relevant types of development measures to address nitrates, phosphates are required and mandatory BNG will be a requirement – applications having measures to address these issues does not mean otherwise unacceptable proposals would be permitted.

  • Where does planning/planning permission fit in this process?

    Please see above

  • Who will provide services in relation to BNG schemes with which the SDNPA is partnered?
  • Are other National Parks doing this?

    All National Parks, and also Local Authorities, will be subject to the same legislation and will therefore need to explore similar arrangements.

    Currently all National Parks are working collaboratively through Nature Restoration Design partners Revere, to consider how we collectively respond to this new market and ensure that it is used for nature’s maximum benefit.

  • Can anyone else do what the SDNPA is doing, such as a private business or local authority?

    The activities which the SDNPA undertakes in respect of the section 106 agreement, in terms of the execution, monitoring and enforcement of the landowner’s obligations under the section 106 agreement can only be undertaken by a local planning authority.

    In terms of the other consultancy and support services which the SDNPA offers to landowners, there are other organisations in the marketplace who offer these services.

    Any interested landowner looking to find out more should contact ReNatureCredits@southdowns.gov.uk

  • Are there geographical limits on the offsetting?

     The South Downs National Park will be looking to direct the credits arising from any development to its nearest appropriate ReNature site.

    There is a balance between the proximity to the site and the scale of the project and the habitat type needed.

    The South Downs is looking to delivery projects that are in keeping with the Lawton report “bigger, better and more joined up”.

  • What benefits will this bring to nature?

    See above

  • Is this Greenwashing?

    Greenwashing is a PR tactic used to make a company or product appear environmentally friendly, without meaningfully reducing its environmental impact.

    ReNature Credits will have a meaningful benefit to the environment and we will also ensure that any communication about ReNature Credits is done responsibly and cannot be considered greenwashing.

  • Could this potentially take finance away from the developing world in offsetting that could happen there?

    At the moment we are primarily considering BNG and Nutrients which are dealing with problems occurring from UK development that are required to be offset within a particular local area (e.g. the relevant river catchment for nutrients) or nationally at the last resort (in the case of BNG), therefore international markets for these do not currently exist.

    In addition, it is important that offsets are secured close to the development to ensure that they benefit the same ecosystem, meaning buying these overseas would be inappropriate.

    We are considering a UK Carbon offer, however, given the growing global demand for offsets as we approach net zero, we do not anticipate any impact on international carbon markets including the developing world.

  • How do people get in touch?

    If you are interested in buying ReNature Credits or creating Strategic Site for Nature please use this form or see available BNG schemes.

  • Who monitors the offsetting land afterwards?

    As the Local Planning Authority with statutory planning powers to secure mitigation land for nitrates and phosphates and offset land for BNG, the SDNPA’s Planning Directorate is obligated through s106 agreements to enforce and monitor for 125 years in the case of nutrients and 30 years in the case of BNG.


"The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness."