Government Consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain
The proposals under consultation until February 2019 seek to provide a single nationwide ecological assessment system for scoring the biodiversity of a prospective development site and setting requirements for the score to improve as a result of the development, termed “net gain”.
The aim is for net gain obligations to be established early, at the site assessment stage, and should see benefits to developers and LPAs, as well as wildlife, by ensuring the scope of ecological works is identified at an early stage, increasing certainty surrounding costs, biodiversity integration, and providing greater consistency for planning standards which currently vary across LPA boundaries. This in turn should speed up the planning permission process.
The system will also introduce standardised tariffs where net loss is unavoidable, the funds of which will be used to create off-site environmental features of greater value to both wildlife and local communities.
Defra stipulate that net gain proposals must benefit developers by producing greater certainty around ecological aspects of development and provide process cost savings. They have outlined the areas of potential improvement for developers in documents provided in the consultation online. An example of how net gain aims to benefit a small-mid size housing developer is shown in Figure 1.
Defra’s key questions on Net Gain:
- How should the approach be standardised so it’s simpler and clearer for developers?
- Should this requirement be added?
- How should the net gain approach be implemented?
- How should the approach be measured and monitored?