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Should Biodiversity Net Gain be seen as an opportunity for developers?

Here our guest writer, Richard Dean of Arbtech tells us more……

What is BNG?

Biodiversity Net Gain has been introduced to ensure that the biodiversity of an area is improved following the completion of land development projects. Our biodiversity net gain consultants will ensure that as much of a site’s flora and fauna as possible will be preserved, however, in some circumstances, proposals will mean a loss to the environment and an alternative location may be required to allocate the required biodiversity net gain units to.

Has BNG become law?

Although the Environment Act 2021 is a part of UK law, its policies – with mandatory biodiversity net gain included – aren’t expected to be fully integrated until the year 2023 as it goes through a two-year transition period. Many local planning authorities, however, are already enforcing the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in line with detailed guidance from DEFRA and Natural England and are applying a 10% biodiversity net gain requirement on each new development proposal in preparation for it becoming the norm.

With a growing number of local planning authorities stipulating biodiversity net gain as a general condition of granting planning consent, it’s advisable to consider the requirement early as part of the pre-development preparations.

Is BNG bad news for developers?

While it’s understandable that land developers, architects, planners and other relevant professionals might see this emphasis on environmental protection as yet another hurdle to jump in the pursuit of planning consent, it’s better to view the mandatory requirement as an investment.

Nature has been in decline for decades: a report from 2019 claimed that 41% of UK species have decreased and, shockingly, the abundance of the UK’s priority species has declined by as much as 60% since 1970. It is therefore imperative that property developers play their part in helping to improve the UK’s biodiversity.

BNG metrics and measurement

Under the new legislation, you will need to submit information and receive approval for what is known as a ‘biodiversity net gain plan’ (or sometimes simply referred to as a ‘net gain plan‘). Once the Environment Act 2021 becomes more frequently adhered to as part of law, you will need a net gain plan to secure planning permission for your development. At this point, it is important to stress that this is non-negotiable – no plan, no planning permission.

It may come as a relief to know that the process of measuring biodiversity net gain will not be an arbitrary decision made by your local planning officer. Instead, it will be measured in the same way nationally, using the DEFRA biodiversity metric 3.1 – a tool specifically designed to measure biodiversity gains or losses.

Can biodiversity units be delivered off-site if they cannot be accommodated on-site?

Ideally, your local planning authority will expect you to provide the biodiversity net gain on-site, however, in some circumstances this simply will not be possible. In these cases, the local authority will look closely at your plans and may still grant consent if you can deliver sufficient biodiversity net gain off-site, ideally locally to the application site.

How to protect your businesses pipeline of future projects

  1. Engage the services of a suitably qualified biodiversity net gain consultant early in the planning process.
  2. Consider all opportunities for retaining as much existing biodiversity on site as possible and seek ways of improving this where feasible.
  3. If you are unable to provide the required number of biodiversity units on site, you will need to either negotiate a financial contribution to the local authority or provide the units on nearby land.
  4. If your business has assets with no development potential, consider creating biodiversity units to ‘bank’ and satisfy future needs. This forward planning will help protect your development pipeline and potentially avoid costly planning refusals.

Why Arbtech?

When it comes to something as important as achieving planning approval, it’s crucial that you have biodiversity net gain advice and guidance from genuine experts that offer good practice on ecology matters and understand other issues such as existing legal implications. Every single one of our ecologists is licenced and educated to Bachelor’s or Master’s level. They know their stuff, possessing a wealth of expertise about local and national ecological networks to guide effective environmental management, based on the corresponding local planning authority’s criteria.

Arbtech have national coverage and can also provide you with a full range of ecology and arboriculture services, meaning we are a one-stop consultancy and take complete ownership so you can get planning permission, fast. We typically provide over 4,000 surveys annually and have 55+ staff across the UK.

If you would like us to quote on your next project, then contact Richard Dean on [email protected] or take a look at our website

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