With many local authorities requiring a Net Gain already are you ready? Do you know what Biodiversity Net Gain is and what it means for your proposals, Natural England have produced a short leaflet that explains more, you can access that here.

Do you know what Biodiversity Net Gain would look like for your typical design, if you can’t achieve Biodiversity Net Gain on your site have you thought about how you would address this?

The options will be using land you own, biodiversity units other landowners generate through registered schemes and buying credits from large strategic sites. Have you thought about using your own land to provide biodiversity units? If so did you know that for any planning application after November 2023, this land must be inside the planning application red line boundary or be pre-registered. The long term management of the habitats to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain will be the responsibility of the Developer through S106 or similar if within the redline boundary, or the registered land owner if within a registered off site scheme.

A key consideration for both land owners and land buyers is the clearance of land.  Once BNG come into force, where land has been cleared since 30 January 2020, the Biodiversity Net Gain assessment will have to take into consideration the habitats which were present prior to the clearance. Cleared habitats can easily be identified on satellite imagery. In addition, Natural England have recently updated the MAGIC website to include a predicted habitat type across England. 

At a recent training workshop Bakerwell Limited took clients through approaches to designing for Biodiversity Net Gain using recent examples. Feedback was that changes to on site practices during construction and handover to management companies would be key to ensure the delivery of landscape and biodiversity objectives as specified during planning. It is not currently known how failure to meet the predicted Biodiversity Net Gain will be enforced, where net gain is delivered within the red line boundary only. However, the intention is for it to be as a monitoring and reporting to the local planning authority as specified in the Biodiversity Net Gain guidance.

A letter has recently been sent to the Government from prominent ecologists raising concerns over the ability to enforce biodiversity net gain delivery on site.

Therefore, lessons to take forward are that planting specifications can’t be downgraded, for example changing the size, number or area of trees would reduce the units achieved. The time where retained habitat or early planting (which is rewarded in the metric) will be most at risk is during construction, therefore, on site quality and risk monitoring to reduce damage during construction should be incentivised.

The Environment Act is expected to be enacted through secondary legislation in November 2023 for most development types, requiring a minimum of 10% Biodiversity Net Gain. The consultation on the secondary legislation ended on the 4th of April, click here to access the consultation documents . The consultation covers possible exemptions such as householder and change of use applications, removal of the minimum 10% Biodiversity Net Gain obligation for irreplaceable habitats where a stronger, alternative obligation is available and the minimum information to be submitted with a planning application (e.g. the core biodiversity gain information).  The use of European Protected Species / Habitat Regulation Assessment measures to contribute to Biodiversity Net Gain (which cannot enable the achievement of 10%) and recommendation that outline applications are required to provide a full Biodiversity Net Gain strategy and explain how this will be delivered in each phase is also covered in the consultation.

Watch this space for future updates on this fast moving new requirement.