Categories
Category: Blog

New Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Requirements For Planning Applications In The UK

New Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Requirements For Planning Applications In The UK

Key Highlights

  1. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is now mandatory for many planning applications in the UK.
  2. The goal of BNG is to ensure that wildlife habitats are left in a better state than before development.
  3. Developers must deliver a BNG of 10%, meaning that the development must result in more or better quality natural habitat.
  4. Biodiversity value is measured in standardised biodiversity units, which can be lost through development or generated through habitat creation and enhancement.
  5. There are three ways for developers to achieve BNG: on-site strategies, off-site strategies, and buying statutory biodiversity credits.
  6. The BNG Service, including the Biodiversity Gain Site Register, provides guidance and digital tools for developers, landowners, and local planning authorities to comply with BNG requirements.

Introduction

The introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in the UK marks a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to protect and enhance its natural environment. BNG has become mandatory for many planning applications, ensuring that wildlife habitats are left in a better state than before development. This new requirement is part of the government’s Environment Act and aims to make a significant contribution to nature’s recovery.

In November 2023, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published comprehensive guidance on BNG to help local planning authorities, developers, landowners, and other stakeholders understand and comply with the new requirements. The guidance covers everything from the basics of BNG to the practical steps for achieving it.

The introduction of BNG is a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including government agencies, developers, and environmental experts. Extensive user research and consultations have been conducted to ensure that the guidance and digital services provided are user-friendly and effective in achieving the desired outcomes.

Understanding the New Biodiversity Net Gain Requirements

Understanding the New Biodiversity Net Gain Requirements

The new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements have been introduced to ensure that development projects result in a measurable improvement in biodiversity. BNG is an approach that aims to leave habitats for wildlife in a better state than before development, contributing to the overall goal of nature’s recovery.

The planning process now includes the use of a statutory biodiversity metric to assess the biodiversity value of a site before and after development. Biodiversity value is measured in standardised biodiversity units, which take into account factors such as habitat size, quality, location, and type. These units can be lost through development or generated through habitat creation and enhancement, and it is important to work with a responsible body or local authority to ensure that these units are properly registered and recorded.

Developers are now required to deliver a BNG of 10%, meaning that the development must result in more or better quality natural habitat than there was before. The biodiversity metric is used to calculate the number of biodiversity units required to achieve the target BNG. Developers can achieve BNG through on-site strategies, off-site strategies, or by buying statutory biodiversity credits, all of which must be carefully considered in the site selection and layout process.

The BNG guidance provides step-by-step instructions for developers, landowners, and local planning authorities on how to use the biodiversity metric, calculate the required biodiversity units, and implement strategies to achieve BNG. It also emphasizes the importance of consulting with ecologists to assess the biodiversity value of existing habitat and determine suitable habitat creation or enhancement measures.

The Essence of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a fundamental principle underlying the new requirements for planning applications in the UK. The essence of BNG is to ensure that development projects result in a measurably better state of habitats for wildlife.

The goal of BNG is not just to prevent or mitigate biodiversity loss, but to actively contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity. This means that the development must deliver more or better quality natural habitat than there was before. BNG recognizes the value and importance of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem services, such as pollination, natural pest control, and water purification.

By incorporating BNG into the planning process, developers are encouraged to consider the long-term benefits of biodiversity and make conscious decisions to create or enhance habitats. This approach not only benefits wildlife but also contributes to the resilience and sustainability of our natural environment.

BNG reflects a shift towards a more holistic and proactive approach to development, where the value of biodiversity is considered an essential component of a thriving ecosystem. It recognizes that the protection and enhancement of biodiversity are crucial for the well-being of both current and future generations.

Timeline for Implementation

The implementation of the new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements follows a timeline set by the government. The timeline ensures a smooth transition for developers, local planning authorities, and other stakeholders to comply with the new regulations.

The Environment Act, which includes the BNG requirements, was published in November 2023. From that point onwards, developers of major developments and small sites were expected to start incorporating BNG into their planning applications. National significant infrastructure projects will be required to comply with BNG requirements from late November 2025.

To assist stakeholders in understanding and implementing BNG, guidance documents were published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) in February 2024. These guidance documents provide step-by-step instructions and information on the statutory biodiversity metric.

The following table outlines the timeline for the implementation of BNG:

Action

Timeline

Publication of Environment Act

November 2023

Incorporation of BNG into planning process

February 2024

Compliance for major developments

From November 2023

Compliance for small sites

From April 2024

Compliance for nationally significant infrastructure projects

From late November 2025

 

Who Will Be Affected by the BNG Requirements?

The new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements will affect several stakeholders involved in the planning and development process. This includes developers of major developments and small sites, as well as those working on nationally significant infrastructure projects and commercial organisations. Land managers who want to sell in the BNG market and local planning authorities will also be affected. The BNG requirements are designed to ensure that all development projects contribute to biodiversity enhancement and nature’s recovery.

Butterfly wildlife habitat

Developments Subject to BNG

The Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements apply to a wide range of development projects. Local planning authorities play a crucial role in implementing and enforcing these requirements. They have the responsibility to ensure that all relevant developments comply with the BNG requirements.

Developments subject to BNG include major developments, small sites, and nationally significant infrastructure projects. Major developments refer to projects that meet certain criteria, such as a certain number of residential units or a specified floor area. Small sites typically include housing developments of a smaller scale.

For these developments, local planning authorities will assess the proposed BNG plans and ensure that they meet the required standards. The BNG plans must demonstrate how the development will achieve a BNG of 10%, either through on-site strategies, off-site strategies, or the purchase of statutory biodiversity credits. The local planning authorities will also monitor and enforce compliance with the BNG objective and its requirements.

Starting on 12 February 2024, BNG will be required for new planning applications for major developments under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1990, with specified exceptions. Major development refers to residential projects comprising 10 or more dwellings, or sites exceeding 0.5 hectares.

Small site BNG will be implemented from April 2, 2024, with an extended transition period. Small sites are defined as residential developments with 1 to 9 dwellings or an unknown number of dwellings on a site less than 0.5 hectares, and commercial developments with less than 1,000 square meters of floor space or a total site area below 1 hectare.

Exemptions from BNG

While Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is now mandatory for most development projects, there are certain exemptions from the requirements. These exemptions allow for flexibility in situations where BNG may not be feasible or appropriate.

One key exemption is for developments that involve irreplaceable habitats. Irreplaceable habitats are those that are of such high ecological value that they cannot be effectively replicated or replaced. In such cases, developers may be exempted from the BNG requirements.

Exemptions from BNG are considered on a case-by-case basis and are regarded as a last resort. Developers must provide adequate justification for claiming an exemption and demonstrate that all reasonable alternatives to BNG have been explored.

It is important to note that exemptions from BNG do not mean that there is no requirement for ecological considerations. Developers must still follow existing regulations and guidelines to avoid or mitigate any negative impacts on biodiversity. The aim of BNG is to ensure a net gain in biodiversity, but in certain exceptional circumstances, exemptions may be granted.

Strategies for Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain

Strategies for Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain

Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requires careful planning and the implementation of strategies that prioritize the enhancement and creation of habitat for wildlife. The key objective is to ensure that development projects result in a measurable improvement in biodiversity.

There are several strategies that developers can employ to achieve BNG. These strategies are based on the principle of the biodiversity gain hierarchy, which emphasizes the importance of on-site strategies, off-site strategies, and the use of statutory biodiversity credits.

On-site strategies involve creating biodiversity within the red line boundary of the development site. This can include measures such as habitat creation, tree planting, and the incorporation of green spaces into the development design. On-site strategies allow for the direct enhancement of the biodiversity value of the development site.

Off-site strategies involve creating biodiversity gains outside the development site. This can be achieved by creating or enhancing habitat on nearby land or by purchasing off-site biodiversity units from other landowners. Off-site strategies provide opportunities for biodiversity enhancement in areas that may have higher ecological value or better connectivity with existing habitats.

The use of statutory biodiversity credits is another strategy for achieving BNG. Developers can purchase these credits from the government as a last resort if they are unable to achieve the required BNG through on-site, off-site, or on their own land strategies. The revenue generated from the sale of statutory biodiversity credits is reinvested in habitat creation and enhancement projects across England.

By implementing a combination of on-site and off-site strategies, developers can maximize the biodiversity value of their projects and contribute to nature’s recovery. The specific strategies employed will depend on the characteristics of the development site and the surrounding landscape.

On-site vs. Off-site BNG Strategies

Developers have the option to employ both on-site and off-site strategies to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). These strategies offer flexibility in meeting the required biodiversity targets and contribute to the enhancement of wildlife habitats. Here are some key points to consider regarding on-site and off-site BNG strategies:

On-site strategies:

  1. Involve creating biodiversity enhancements within the red line boundary of the development site.
  2. Can include measures such as habitat creation, tree planting, and the incorporation of green spaces.
  3. Directly enhance the biodiversity value of the development site.
  4. Provide opportunities for wildlife to thrive within the immediate vicinity of the development.

Off-site strategies:

  1. Involve creating biodiversity gains outside the development site.
  2. Can be achieved by creating or enhancing habitat on nearby land or purchasing off-site biodiversity units.
  3. Provide opportunities for biodiversity enhancement in areas with higher ecological value or better connectivity.
  4. Contribute to the creation of ecological networks and the establishment of wildlife corridors.

Developers can choose to combine on-site and off-site strategies based on the characteristics of the development site and surrounding landscape. The aim is to achieve the required BNG and ensure a measurable improvement in biodiversity, both within and beyond the development boundaries.

Utilising Biodiversity Metrics for Compliance

To ensure compliance with Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements, developers and local planning authorities must utilise biodiversity metrics. These metrics provide a standardised approach for measuring and quantifying the biodiversity value of habitats before and after development.

The biodiversity metric takes into account factors such as habitat size, quality, location, and type to calculate the number of biodiversity units required to achieve the target BNG. These units serve as a proxy for the biodiversity value of the habitat.

Developers can consult with ecologists to assess the biodiversity value of existing habitats and determine suitable measures for habitat creation or enhancement. The statutory biodiversity metric tool is used to calculate the number of biodiversity units for existing habitat or habitat enhancements.

By using the biodiversity metric, developers can ensure that their development projects result in a measurable improvement in biodiversity. The metric provides a standardised approach for assessing the impact of development on biodiversity and determining the required mitigation measures.

Local planning authorities play a crucial role in reviewing and approving biodiversity gain plans submitted by developers. The use of biodiversity metrics allows for transparency and consistency in assessing compliance with the BNG requirements, ensuring that all stakeholders are working towards the same biodiversity targets.

The Implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in the UK

Legal Framework and Compliance

The implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in the UK is supported by a robust legal framework to ensure compliance with the new requirements. The legal framework includes provisions under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as inserted by the Environment Act 2021.

Under the legal framework, developers are required to deliver a BNG of 10%. This means that the development must result in more or better quality natural habitat than there was before. The BNG requirements are enforced by local planning authorities, who have the responsibility to review and approve biodiversity gain plans submitted by developers.

Compliance with BNG is achieved through the implementation of strategies that prioritize the enhancement and creation of habitat for wildlife. Developers must follow the biodiversity gain hierarchy, which emphasizes the importance of on-site strategies, off-site strategies, and the use of statutory biodiversity credits.

To ensure compliance, developers may need to enter into a legal agreement with the local planning authority. The legal agreement sets out the responsibilities for creating, enhancing, maintaining, monitoring, and reporting on the biodiversity gains achieved through the development.

Failure to comply with the BNG requirements can result in enforcement action by the local planning authority. This may include penalties or the revocation of planning permission. Developers must, therefore, ensure that they adhere to the BNG requirements and fulfill their obligations as outlined in the legal agreement.

The legal framework provides the necessary framework for achieving biodiversity net gain in the UK and ensures that developers, local planning authorities, and other stakeholders work together to protect and enhance the natural environment.

Role of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs)

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) play a crucial role in implementing and enforcing Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements for planning applications in the UK. They have the responsibility to review and approve biodiversity gain plans submitted by developers and ensure compliance with the BNG requirements.

LPAs assess the proposed BNG plans to ensure that they meet the required standards, including the target BNG of 10%. They review the calculations of biodiversity units using the statutory biodiversity metric tool and consider the proposed on-site and off-site strategies.

LPAs also play a key role in monitoring and enforcing compliance with the approved biodiversity gain plans. They may request reports on the progress of habitat creation and enhancement, monitor the maintenance of habitats, and ensure that the required biodiversity gains are achieved and maintained over the long term.

LPAs work closely with developers, landowners, and other stakeholders to ensure that the BNG requirements are met. They provide guidance and support throughout the planning process and ensure that the development projects contribute to nature’s recovery and the enhancement of biodiversity.

Enforcement Mechanisms

To ensure compliance with Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements, enforcement mechanisms are in place to monitor and enforce the approved biodiversity gain plans. These mechanisms aim to hold developers accountable for delivering the required biodiversity gains and maintaining them over the long term.

In the event of non-compliance, the local planning authority (LPA) has the power to take enforcement action against the developer. This may include penalties, revocation of planning permission, or legal action to enforce the terms of the legal agreement.

Enforcement mechanisms ensure that developers fulfill their obligations as outlined in the approved biodiversity gain plan and the legal agreement. They provide a means to address non-compliance and ensure that the objectives of BNG are met.

Developers must, therefore, be diligent in implementing the strategies outlined in the approved biodiversity gain plan and maintaining the habitats created or enhanced. Regular monitoring and reporting are essential to demonstrate compliance and avoid enforcement action.

The enforcement mechanisms aim to create a level playing field and ensure that all developers adhere to the BNG requirements. They contribute to the overall success of BNG in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the UK.

Developers play a crucial role in achieving Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in the UK

Practical Steps for Developers

Developers play a crucial role in achieving Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in the UK. To comply with the new requirements, developers must follow a series of practical steps throughout the planning process.

The first step is to familiarize themselves with the BNG guidance provided by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). This guidance provides detailed information on the statutory biodiversity metric, the calculation of biodiversity units, and the strategies for achieving BNG.

Developers should assess the biodiversity value of their development site by consulting with ecologists. This assessment will help determine the baseline biodiversity units and the target BNG that needs to be achieved.

Developers must then develop a biodiversity gain plan that outlines the strategies and measures to be implemented to achieve the required BNG. The plan should include details of on-site and off-site strategies, including habitat creation, tree planting, and the use of statutory biodiversity credits if necessary.

The biodiversity gain plan must be submitted to the local planning authority (LPA) as part of the planning application. The LPA will review the plan and assess its compliance with the BNG requirements. The developer must address any feedback or requests for additional information from the LPA.

Once the planning permission is granted, developers must implement the biodiversity gain plan and ensure the creation or enhancement of habitats. Regular monitoring and reporting are essential to demonstrate compliance with the approved plan and the achievement of the required biodiversity gains.

By following these practical steps, developers can ensure that their projects contribute to BNG and the enhancement of biodiversity in the UK.

Preparing for BNG in Planning Applications

Preparing for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in planning applications requires developers to take several important steps to ensure compliance with the new requirements.

Firstly, developers should familiarize themselves with the BNG guidance provided by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). This guidance provides detailed information on the statutory biodiversity metric, the calculation of biodiversity units, and the strategies for achieving BNG.

Developers should assess the biodiversity value of their development site by consulting with ecologists. This assessment will help determine the baseline biodiversity units and the target BNG that needs to be achieved.

Based on this assessment, developers must develop a comprehensive biodiversity gain plan. The plan should outline the strategies and measures to be implemented to achieve the required BNG. This may include on-site strategies, off-site strategies, or the use of statutory biodiversity credits.

Developers must ensure that the biodiversity gain plan is included as part of the planning application submitted to the local planning authority (LPA). The LPA will review the plan and assess its compliance with the BNG requirements. Developers must address any feedback or requests for additional information from the LPA.

By preparing for BNG in planning applications, developers can ensure that their projects are in line with the new requirements and contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity.

Best Practices for Meeting BNG Requirements

Meeting Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements requires developers and land managers to follow best practices to ensure the successful implementation of strategies and the achievement of the required biodiversity gains.

Some best practices for meeting BNG requirements include:

  1. Early engagement: Engage with ecologists and relevant stakeholders early in the planning process to assess the biodiversity value of the site and identify appropriate habitat creation or enhancement measures.
  2. Collaboration: Work closely with local planning authorities (LPAs) to ensure that the biodiversity gain plan meets the required standards and addresses any feedback or concerns raised by the LPA.
  3. Monitoring and reporting: Regularly monitor and report on the progress of habitat creation or enhancement to demonstrate compliance with the approved biodiversity gain plan and the achievement of the required biodiversity gains.
  4. Long-term management: Maintain and manage the habitats created or enhanced for a minimum of 30 years. This includes ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and reporting to ensure the long-term sustainability of the biodiversity gains.
  5. Sharing best practices: Share knowledge and experiences with other developers and land managers to promote the adoption of BNG and the exchange of ideas for achieving the required biodiversity gains.

By following these best practices, developers and land managers can effectively meet the BNG requirements and contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity in the UK.

Monitoring and Reporting Biodiversity Gains

Monitoring and Reporting Biodiversity Gains

Monitoring and reporting the biodiversity gains achieved through Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a crucial aspect of ensuring compliance and the long-term success of development projects.

Monitoring involves the regular assessment of the habitats created or enhanced to measure their biodiversity value and ensure that they are functioning as intended. This may involve surveys, ecological assessments, and other monitoring techniques to track changes in species composition, habitat quality, and ecological processes.

Reporting requires developers and land managers to provide regular updates on the progress of habitat creation or enhancement, as well as the maintenance and monitoring activities undertaken. This information is essential for demonstrating compliance with the approved biodiversity gain plan and the achievement of the required biodiversity gains.

Long-term habitat management is vital to maintaining the biodiversity gains achieved through BNG. Developers and land managers must commit to managing the habitats for a minimum of 30 years, ensuring that they are properly maintained, monitored, and reported on.

The BNG guidance provides detailed information on the requirements for monitoring and reporting biodiversity gains. It outlines the specific monitoring activities that should be undertaken, the frequency of reporting, and the information that should be included in the reports.

By monitoring and reporting on biodiversity gains, developers and land managers can demonstrate their commitment to biodiversity enhancement and contribute to the long-term sustainability of our natural environment.

Long-term Habitat Management and Monitoring

Long-term habitat management and monitoring are essential for preserving and enhancing the biodiversity gains achieved through Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

Developers and land managers have the responsibility to manage the habitats created or enhanced for a minimum of 30 years. This includes ongoing maintenance activities, such as vegetation management, pest control, and habitat restoration.

Monitoring is an integral part of long-term habitat management and involves regular assessments of the biodiversity value and ecological function of the habitats. Monitoring helps track changes in species composition, habitat quality, and ecological processes over time and ensures that the habitats are functioning as intended.

By conducting regular monitoring and implementing appropriate management actions, developers and land managers can ensure the long-term sustainability of the biodiversity gains achieved through BNG. This commitment to habitat management and monitoring is crucial for the success of BNG and the overall enhancement of biodiversity in the UK.

National Biodiversity Gain Sites Register

The National Biodiversity Gain Sites Register is an important tool for tracking and recording off-site biodiversity gains across England. It provides a publicly accessible source of information about the allocation and use of off-site biodiversity units.

The register is maintained by Natural England, the “Register Operator” on behalf of the government. It serves as a central repository for information about off-site biodiversity gains and provides transparency and accountability in the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) process.

For landowners participating in off-site BNG, the register allows them to apply to record the allocation of habitat enhancements to their development. Developers can view unallocated off-site habitat enhancements, and local planning authorities can access information about allocated and unallocated enhancements as part of their checks on submitted gain plans.

The National Biodiversity Gain Sites Register is an important component of the BNG Service, which provides digital and other services to support compliance with BNG requirements. It ensures that the allocation and use of off-site biodiversity units are properly recorded, monitored, and managed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the new Biodiversity Net Gain requirements in the UK mark a significant step towards enhancing environmental sustainability in planning applications. Understanding the essence of Biodiversity Net Gain, complying with legal frameworks, and implementing effective strategies are crucial for developers and local planning authorities. By prioritizing on-site and off-site BNG strategies and utilizing biodiversity metrics, stakeholders can achieve positive outcomes for biodiversity conservation. Monitoring and reporting biodiversity gains, coupled with long-term habitat management, are essential for lasting impacts. Ready to navigate the BNG landscape? Get in touch to explore how you can align your development projects with these new requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Constitutes an Acceptable BNG Plan?

An acceptable Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) plan is one that demonstrates how the development will achieve a BNG of 10% through on-site and/or off-site strategies. The plan must be submitted to and approved by the local planning authority (LPA) before development can commence.

How Does BNG Affect Small-scale Developments?

From April 2nd 2024 small-scale developments are also subject to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements. Developers of small sites are required to provide a BNG of 10%, following the same principles as major developments. The local planning authority (LPA) will assess the BNG plans for small-scale developments to ensure compliance.

Can BNG Credits Be Traded or Sold?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) credits, known as statutory biodiversity credits, can be traded or sold. Developers who are unable to achieve the required BNG through on-site or off-site strategies can purchase these credits from the government as a last resort. The revenue generated from the sale of credits is reinvested in habitat creation in England.

Return to Blog