16th February 2024

Planning implications of Biodiversity Net Gain Enhancements for developers and landowners

Thrings biodiversity net gain Romsey event

With Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements now in force for development across the country, the changes are set to impact both developers and landowners. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a requirement for developers to enhance the natural environment and ensure a net increase in biodiversity as part of development proposals.

This commitment seeks to minimise ecological impact on development projects and emphasises leaving the environment in a better condition than before.

Legislative Changes and Legal requirements:

Changes to the Town and Planning Act 1990 through the Environment Act 2021 now make it a legal requirement for most planning permissions to include a standard condition focusing on BNG.

This means developers must submit an approved plan for increasing biodiversity before starting a project with the associated habitat creation or enhancement needing to be maintained for 30 years. As of 12 February 2024, new applications for planning permission on major development that do not fall into the list of confirmed exemptions are required to deliver net gains for biodiversity.

Meanwhile, minor development sites (residential sites less than 10 dwellings on sites less than one hectare or non-residential sites where the floor space to be created is under 1,000 square metres or where the site is less than one hectare) will be subject to the same requirements from 2 April 2024. BNG then extends to cover Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) in late 2025.

Landowners: What do I need to do?

In order to secure the creation/enhancement of habitats on biodiversity gain sites, landowners should look to:

  • Work with an ecologist: Seek professional ecological advice to formulate a proposal, including the biodiversity metric - a way of measuring biodiversity value- for calculating gains and a habitat management plan for ongoing maintenance to ensure the BNG requirements are fully met
  • Secure the Land: Utilise s106 obligations or conservation covenants to legally bind the land if needed under the BNG requirements.
  • Register on the Biodiversity Gain Register: Apply for registration on the offsite biodiversity gain register to formalise and document your BNG plan (if required)

Developers: What do I need to do?

Similarly, developers need to:

  • Submit a BNG Plan: Develop and submit a comprehensive Biodiversity Statement, outlining the specific strategies for achieving BNG to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) for approval before initiating development. The submission should include a Biodiversity Gain Plan (BGP) which maps out the steps for achieving BNG and considers the acquisition of biodiversity units from landowners;
  • Adhere to Biodiversity Net Gain conditions: Upon securing planning permission, it is important to adhere to the Biodiversity gain condition, outlining the necessary steps for achieving BNG. Conditions need be discharged as part of the planning permission and is normally phased to ensure a BNG plan is submitted and approved by the LPA.
  • Explore off-site alternatives: Consider off-site options if achieving on-site BNG options proves to be challenging or unfeasible. Acquiring statutory credits should only be considered as a last-resort solution.

Harvey Davies, Solicitor in the Thrings Planning and Environment team, said: “Embracing Biodiversity Net Gain is pivotal in today’s development landscape as aligning projects with environmental priorities becomes increasingly crucial for sustainable practice.

“The recent legal changes emphasise its significance and navigating this landscape requires a proactive approach, with early integration of environmental considerations and to embrace BNG simultaneously with your development goals. We would always recommend seeking robust legal advice to ensure landowners and developers are making the most of these new requirements.”

Biodiversity Net Gain will be the focus of Thrings’ upcoming seminar being held at its Romsey office on Wednesday, 6 March with a range of experts speaking about the legal, environmental, financial and planning impact. To find out more about the event and how to book your place, click here.


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