Under the Environment Act a minimum 10% increase in Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is required for developments
A recent legal review confirmed 10% BNG will not be mandatory until a two year transitional period has passed and secondary legislation sets the date for the requirement to come into force. Each local planning authority will set their own policy and may choose a higher level of biodiversity net gain. Under the Environment Act the Secretary of State is required to lay the Defra Biodiversity Metric before Parliament.
The new Defra Biodiversity Metric 3.0 was released in July 2021. This replaces the previous Beta (test) version and includes updated technical guidance on the assessment of habitat condition, include a template for recording such assessments. The new metric also includes intertidal and terrestrial habitats.
A new Small Sites Metric has also been released in Beta version, to allow feedback on the use of the tool. This is intended to be used for development sites of 1-9 residential units (inclusive) on an area of under 1ha, or if the number of units is not know on sites of under 0.5ha. The small sites metric is not appropriate for sites where priority habitat is present (excluding hedgerows and arable margins) or to calculate off site gains and losses.
The Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) released BNG Report and Audit Template guidance in July this year . We have included a brief summary of key points of the guidance and report types below.
Outline vs Detailed Planning Applications, Planning Conditions and Reserved Matters (RM): outline planning applications can use parameter plans, illustrative landscape masterplans or landscape scheme and be supported by a BNG Strategy, showing how individual phases will deliver proportions of the habitat provision. Most strategic or phased developments will require resubmission of a BNG Design Stage Report with the RM application, including an updated BNG calculation, unless no significant changes to the original design are proposed or commitments made have been clearly met. Some reporting such as the Project Implementation and Construction Plan, Biodiversity Net Gain Management and Monitoring Plan and Biodiversity Net Gain Audit Report Template could be provided as a condition of the planning consent
Feasibility Report: to be undertaken early in a project before designs are fixed, including appraisals of different options and the predicted outcomes for biodiversity net gain for each option.
Design Stage Reports: A full standalone report detailing the existing baseline habitats, justification of how the Good Practice Principles have been met and describe the proposed design. Copies of the metric information along with a Habitats Baseline Plan and Proposed Habitats Plan should be included. For smaller sites a section within your Ecological Assessment report may be proportionate.
Project Implementation and Construction Plan: To show how the design concepts will be delivered, including drawings, detailed landscape planting schedules, management proposals, timetable for implementation and a construction handover checklists. This could be provided as a standalone report or included in your Ecological Mitigation Strategy.
Biodiversity Net Gain Management and Monitoring Plan: This focuses on the delivery of long term management and monitoring of the habitat creation and enhancement. Detailing how it will be maintained from years 1-5 and then more broadly for the lifetime of the BNG commitment e.g. up to 30 years. This could be provided as standalone report or included in your Landscape and Ecology Management Plan.
Biodiversity Net Gain Audit Report Template: Appropriate times for audit would be where there are changes to the design post consent, immediately following project implementation / completion of construction or at the end of a landscape implementation phase and when the habitats are expected to have reached their target conditions.