Defra issues guidance on biodiversity net gain for developments

Thrings law defra issues guidance

Landowners and developers should take note of newly published government guidance on what can count towards a development’s biodiversity net gain (BNG) – here’s what you need to know.

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

BNG is the net increase in biodiversity (i.e. the different organisms – plants, animals, insects and microorganisms that live in the natural world) after a development has taken place. This means that, from November 2023, for any new developments, developers must not just replace any biodiversity lost as a result of the development works but are also required to add 10% in order to provide the net gain.

This will have important ramifications for developers, who will need to develop a biodiversity net gain plan which is submitted to and approved by the local planning authority, and the associated habitat creation or enhancement will then need to be maintained for 30 years.

As a result, the development should ensure that environment is in a better state than before the development began.

What is and isn’t allowed?

Recently published guidance by Defra has further updated what can and cannot be included in the mandatory BNG criteria for all new planning applications in England.

Habitats being created or enhanced as part of a development can still count towards BNG even if they are being delivered to:

  • Comply with a statutory obligation or policy – e.g. green infrastructure, environmental impact assessment (EIA) compensation or sustainable drainage scheme;
  • Provide mitigation or compensation for protected species or sites – e.g. mitigation in nutrient neutrality areas;
  • Provide river basin management plan (RBMP) mitigation and enhancement measures.

Another option that developers are often encouraged to take is to purchase biodiversity units generated by off-site habitat creation of enhancement. Under the new guidance these need to be legally secured for at least 30 years and must be registered before they can count towards the BNG of the proposed development.

Off-site mitigation and compensation for protected sites is only part of the answer with at least 10% of BNG required to come through on-site habitat creation and enhancement.

If, however, the habitat is already required for the following, it should not be counted towards BNG:

  • Restocking conditions relating to a tree felling licence or a restocking notice;
  • Remediation under the environment damage regulations;
  • Marine Licensing.

The Thrings Planning and Environment team has extensive experience in navigating complex local and national planning policy legislation and has successfully supported commercial and residential applications through the approval and appeal processes. To find out more and for advice on your development proposals, including on usage classes, please do get in touch.

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