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BioBoost: Maximizing Biodiversity with Net Gain Strategies

BioBoost: Maximizing Biodiversity with Net Gain Strategies

BioBoost: Maximizing Biodiversity with Net Gain Strategies

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain (“BNG”) is an environmental concept that aims to enhance the overall biodiversity of an area through development or land-use changes. It involves measuring and quantifying the impact of a project on the local biodiversity and ensuring that the outcome results in a net gain of biodiversity. BNG requires developers and planners to assess the existing biodiversity value of a site and develop plans to enhance it through habitat creation, restoration, or conservation measures. The goal is to ensure that any loss of biodiversity due to development activities is offset by a subsequent increase in biodiversity elsewhere or within the same area. BNG is gaining prominence as a valuable tool for achieving sustainable development and mitigating the environmental impact of human activities.

BNG and the Environmental Act 2021

The UK government has implemented a 25-year environmental plan which sets out how it will embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle to ensure that development in England delivers local and national environmental improvements. The current policy is within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and supporting planning practice guidance states that the planning system should provide BNG where possible.

The Environmental Act 2021 includes powers to introduce mandatory BNG in England for both planning permissions under the town and country planning (T&CP) regime and for development consents for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPS). By November 2023, there will be a general condition that all town and country planning permissions that result in loss or degradation of habitat will require a minimum 10% net gain in biodiversity. However, for smaller sites this will be extended to April 2024 in order to ease the transition and allow some time for developers and LPA’s to adapt. The BNG principle is to be introduced by November 2025 for nationally significant infrastructure projects, but it is encouraged for projects to adopt BNG earlier on a voluntary basis.

There will be some exemptions to the BNG requirement, such as small-scale self-build and custom housebuilding and developments impacting habitat areas below minimal threshold to name a few.

How will it work?

The developer must submit a BNG plan with their planning application, which needs to be approved by the LPA for planning permission to be granted. The plan should include the pre-development biodiversity value, the proposed approach to enhancing biodiversity on site, and any proposed off-site biodiversity enhancements that have been planned for the development.

The biodiversity value of a habitat is calculated in biodiversity units using the biodiversity metric. The metric uses habitats as the measure of biodiversity; different habitat types are scored based on their value to wildlife. For example, if a developer’s site pre-development is worth 50 units, the site should be worth 55 units once the development is completed. If a development results in loss of irreplaceable habitat, this will be excluded from the main metric calculation. Instead, a separate calculation will be carried out to document loss of irreplaceable habitat and ensure appropriate compensation is paid. The newest version of the metric, which will form the basis for the statutory metric for the TCPA 1990, has been published by Natural England.

Who will it affect?

The new mandatory BNG legislation will affect LPAs, who will have to approve a BNG plan for development work before granting planning permission, and land managers, who will be able to get paid by selling biodiversity units.

Of course, mandatory BNG will also significantly affect developers. Primarily, developers must try to avoid loss of habitat on the land being developed. If this is not possible, they must create habitat on or off-site. If they cannot do either of these things, they must buy statutory credits from the Government (i.e. paying for the Government to invest in habitat creation elsewhere in England), but this must be a last resort. If developers claim they cannot use any one of these three options, they must provide evidence as to why.

Developers should also be aware that BDNG obligations, such as carrying out a biodiversity impact assessment, are likely to be included in any section 106 agreements they seek to agree with the LPA. Developers will need to ensure that they have built in enough time to comply with their obligations, especially since certain surveys can only be carried out at particular times of year.

Contact our Residential Development solicitors today

For more information or to discuss your requirements, please contact the team on 0330 175 7609, or email us at residentialdevelopment@ibblaw.co.uk.