Biodiversity net gain guidance for developers issued

Improving biodiversity ensures habitats for vital pollinators. Photo credit: Jenna Lee (Unsplash)

Guidance on how to achieve 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements in England have been published by the government.

BNG comes into force in November for developments in the Town and Country Planning Act. It will impact smaller sites from April 2024.

The legislation is being introduced into England to help the recovery of nature. Developers will be required to deliver a 10% BNG on new housing, industrial or commercial developments.

They will need to carefully assess the habitat on a proposed development site, and deliver plans on how they will deliver 10% BNG.

These plans will be submitted to the local planning authority for approval. Local authorities have been given £16m from the government to cope with this extra workload.

Working for wildlife

Environment secretary Therese Coffey said: “Biodiversity net gain will ensure new developments work for both wildlife and people by creating nature-rich places whilst ensuring that communities get the new homes they need.

“We will continue to support and work with developers and planning authorities ahead of the introduction of biodiversity net gain.”

Berkeley Group chief executive Rob Perrins said: “Putting this into practice on 49 sites has been a hugely positive experience for Berkeley Group and we know that the benefits far outweighed the challenges involved.”

Housebuilder Redrow’s group biodiversity manager, Nicola Johansen, said: “When embraced, net gain not only benefits nature, but also the wellbeing of customers and local communities who live near and enjoy these nature-rich spaces.”

BNG has been brought in under the Environment Act and is part of the UK government’s plan to halt and reverse species decline by 2030.

Avoid loss or replace

Developers must avoid loss of habitat on land they are developing. If this is not achievable, they must create habitat either on the site they are developing or on another site.

They will also need to demonstrate how they are replacing and improving diversity with “biodiversity metric trading” rules. This is to ensure biodiversity is replaced at the same level, if not better.

There will also be a possibility for developers to pay for improvements on other sites elsewhere by purchasing ‘units’ via a private, offsite market.

Last resort

As a last resort if the above is not possible, developers can buy credits from the government. The money will be used to invest in habitat creation in England. Evidence as to why it is not possible to utilise the other three options must be provided.

It is possible to apply a combination of the three options, but this must be discussed with an ecologist and evidence also provided.

  • A CPD on managing biodiversity in construction is available here.
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