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Environmental Bill: Promoting Biodiversity Net Gain

Environmental Bill: Promoting Biodiversity Net Gain

Environmental Bill: Promoting Biodiversity Net Gain

The Government’s Environmental Bill (“the Bill”) will require all Local Planning Authorities to incorporate a “biodiversity net gain” (“BNG”) approach in the local planning processes. As the Government’s pre-legislative consultation in December 2019 explained, BNG “is an approach which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand”.

The Bill, which is currently under review in the House of Lords, aims to increase environmental standards by requiring a 10% national increase in the net biodiversity of land granted planning permission. The Bill aims at achieving BNG within the current planning process, with future applications requiring an approved BNG plan before permission can be granted.

Measuring BNG

The Bill provides that BNG will be measure by:

  • the post-development biodiversity value on the onsite habitat;
  • the biodiversity value of the development of any registered offsite biodiversity gain allocated to the development; and
  • the biodiversity value of any biodiversity credits purchased for the development.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England has developed the metric for calculating the biodiversity losses and gains resulting from development of land. There are three categories:

  1. Distinctiveness: whether the habitat is of high, medium or low value to wildlife;
  2. Condition: whether the habitat is a good example of its type;
  3. Extent: the area that the habitat occupies (in hectares or kilometres, as applicable)

Practical Considerations

Developers will need to consider how BNG can be incorporated as part of a proposed scheme before entering into agreements with landowners. Considerations should include the following:

  • to what extent will necessary biodiversity enhancements impact the contract price?
  • will it be necessary to instruct experts (ie. ecologists) to assess the biodiversity impact on the site and prepare a suitable scheme?

It should also be noted that, where planning permission has already been obtained for a site, the final value of that planning permission will be used as the pre-development biodiversity value for any later development.

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