Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Biodiversity Net Gain – all you need to know about this government initiative

11/09/23Biodiversity Net Gain – all you need to know about this government initiative

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a new government initiative that is being introduced in the UK. Its aim is to tackle the challenges of land development and offset any building scheme with the replacement of displaced natural habitats. It will come into operation in November 2023 and will affect anyone who is involved with land development, either as a developer or a landowner.

A natural solution

BNG is part of the Environment Act 2021 and was introduced to protect and preserve key habitats. It became a legal requirement and reiterates the importance of, and commitment to, green issues. BNG received Royal Assent in November 2021, following a long passage through Parliament. These imminent changes will make a difference to the way planning submissions are made. Applicants will subsequently be subject to the planning condition that will require a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain to be secured as part of a new development. This target is known as the BNG Objective.

Key points about Biodiversity Net Gain

Who needs to know?

Any large development covered by the Town and County Planning Act 1990 will need to demonstrate a BNG of 10%. This means that any detrimental impact the development has on biodiversity will be compensated for. Anyone developing smaller sites, that is fewer than 10 homes and where the site is under one hectare, or on plots of 0.5 hectares where the exact number of homes is not known, have until April 2024 to adapt to these changes.  

What are its aims?

The core target of the initiative is to ensure developers amply offset any environmental impacts they may incur. This means that any development granted planning permission will leave biodiversity in the area in a measurably better state than before the work. Developed land will become defined as ‘sealed surface’ in terms of drainage and natural growth. No more rainfall can penetrate the soil and natural processes are stopped. Natural habitats to be encouraged include woodland, scrubland, grassland, wetlands, reedbeds and another natural habitats (excluding areas that are for agricultural use), plus waterways such as ponds, pits, rivers and lakes etc. Providing these assurances will be a mandatory condition of every planning consent.  

What are the options?

There are various different ways to show how this will work in practice. In the best instance, the developer is able to avoid harm and enhance the environment on site, as part of the development itself. Alternatively, if the developer is unable to avoid all the impacts on site, they may be able to secure localised habitat creation that will qualify as BNG. Should the developer be unable to carry out either of the above options, they will have to find nature recovery options elsewhere. So a tariff will be used to fund cost-effective habitat creation projects, for developments where the BNG threshold cannot be reached. In this scenario, a developer will purchase land ‘credits’ from the government, which will not be local to the original development. In this way, off-site units will compensate for the impact of the development by creating a habitat elsewhere.

You can become involved in BNG as either a developer or a landowner. There are also opportunities for an estate manager to allow land to become part of the credit units in the application process. As such, it can become an additional revenue stream and contribute to a diversification model for rural landowners. For further information on the BNG initiative, get in touch with us today.

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