Recapping the latest changes in Environmental Planning

Thrings round up of planning laws

A lot has been happening in recent months in relation to Environmental Planning, including notable changes to policy around Biodiversity Net Gain and Nutrient Neutrality – here’s a run down of what has been going on:

Biodiversity Net Gain

Long-awaited plans for the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements for new building projects have been postponed, with the date moved from November 2023 to January 2024.

The updated timetable, which will require new housing, commercial and infrastructure developments to be “nature positive”, means that the requirements will be applicable for most developments from January.

The exception is for small sites (residential sites less than 10 dwellings or non-residential sites with floor space under 1,000 square metres, with both sites being under one hectare) which will be subject to the requirements from April 2024. Implementation for nationally significant infrastructure projects planned for 2025.

Alongside the deferment, the government made the commitment to publish all guidance and regulations by the end of November, including:

  • the statutory biodiversity metric, critical for calculating the correct biodiversity gain;
  • the draft biodiversity gain plan template, which will help developers prepare for what they will need to complete during the planning application stages;
  • the Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan template, which will set out how the improved significant on-site and off-site habitats will be managed for the long term;
  • a package of Biodiversity Net Gain guidance that sets out further advice for landowners, developers, and Local Planning Authorities around their role and responsibilities in delivering mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain.

Nutrient Neutrality

Earlier this summer, the government sought to significantly loosen rules on Nutrient Neutrality with proposed amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that would look to unlock an estimated 100,000 new homes.

These proposed changes, however, were swiftly rejected in the House of Lords. As such, the nutrient neutrality requirement, which is intended to ensure that new developments do not add to the existing nutrient burden within the catchments of ecologically designated sites, still apply in full.

Less than a week later, Secretary of State Michael Gove made the pledge to bring forward new legislation to resolve the issue at “the first available opportunity”. It is expected that this could completely remove nutrient neutrality requirements from housebuilding altogether, but while there are a number of routes by which the government could look to do this, there will no doubt be the potential for such actions to face legal challenge.


Unlimited fines could await those that pollute the environment under new laws announced by the government.

The new legislation is set to offer quicker methods of enforcement to regulators for those cases that might not be deemed serious enough to go through criminal proceedings, with higher penalties also set to be levied as a civil sanction for offences to enable regulators to drive compliance.

This could mean farmers, developers and landowners (as well as those they allow onto their land) could potentially face much higher fines for any pollution they are found to be either directly or indirectly responsible for. For more on this update, check out our recent article.

Thrings’ Planning and Environment lawyers have 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 how to address enforcement notices, please do get in touch.

Thrings planning lawyers banner

Related Articles