Biodiversity Net Gain Update
Part of the Government’s proposed Environment Bill introduces Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on all new developments. This means there is a requirement for developers to include measures that will help wildlife to thrive by improving habitats and creating new green spaces close to where people live.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2019 already includes requirements for local authorities to minimise impact on biodiversity but the proposed Environment Bill would take this a step further. It is being introduced as part of the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan. New developments will be required to provide a minimum 10% BNG, a requirement that habitats for wildlife must be left in a measurably better state than before the development. Developers must submit a ‘biodiversity gain plan’ alongside usual planning application documents.
Although the Environment Bill has not yet been passed so the BNG is not yet a mandatory requirement, several local authorities are already taking this approach on larger developments. It is accepted that there may be development sites that cannot provide the 10% BNG within the site which could therefore provide opportunities for neighbouring landowners to offer off site land to meet the habitat enhancement requirements in return for compensation. Whilst the details are yet to be fully released, it is expected that developers would need to guarantee the maintenance of the biodiversity gain area for a minimum of 30 years by way of a conservation covenant which, if provided off site, would need a reciprocal arrangement with the landowner. The requirements of BNG may well fit with other Environmental Land Management Schemes that landowners have in place or are looking to enter into.
The Bill is now with the Public Bill Committee but the reporting date has been delayed until 25 June 2020.