New Housing Developments Must Deliver 10% Biodiversity Net Gain from Today

FROM TODAY, it is a legal requirement that all major housing developments are required to deliver at least a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain.

It means developers in England are now legally required to deliver at least a 10% increase in biodiversity when major building projects are undertaken. Some housing developers are already successfully operating Biodiversity Net Gain. But from today, it will be mandatory.

It is hoped the measure, introduced through the Environment Act, will help halt species decline by 2030.

Central Government has allocated £10.6 million to help local authorities recruit and expand ecologist teams.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “Since 2010 we have restored an area for nature larger than the size of Dorset, banned micro plastics and set ambitious targets to halt biodiversity decline. This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature.”

Biodiversity Net Gain requires development to avoid harm to nature. However, where that is unavoidable, developers must create new habitats or enhance existing ones either within the site itself or by investing in nature sites elsewhere. Developers can purchase off-site biodiversity units from landowners via a private market.

Developers like Berkeley Group have been carrying out developments using Biodiversity Net Gain for several years.

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of Berkeley Group, said: “Biodiversity Net Gain is a positive step for the homebuilding industry and will bring nature back to our towns and cities. Putting this into practice on over 50 sites has been a hugely positive experience for Berkeley Group and these greener, wilder landscapes have huge benefits for the communities around them.

“The challenge now is to make sure that developers and planning authorities take a positive and collaborative approach to delivering Biodiversity Net Gain across the country. This is a big change for everyone involved and we need to work together to unlock the full benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.”

Enforcing Biodiversity Net Gain

Local authorities are tasked with enforcing Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on new planning applications from 12 February 2024.

BNG is measured in biodiversity units calculated through a statutory metric tool which considers the size, quality, location, and type of habitat.

This works out how many units a habitat contains before development. It then calculates how many biodiversity units are needed to provide at least 10% BNG.

BNG can be achieved through on-site units, off-site units, or through statutory biodiversity credits. These credits will be available as a last resort from the government, to prevent delays in the planning system it says.

‘Significant’ on-site and all off-site gains will need a legal agreement with a responsible body or local authority to monitor if there are habitat improvements over a 30-year period.

As BNG is implemented on 12 February it will apply to applications for major developments only and will be implemented for small sites (between 1 and 9 dwellings) from 2 April 2024. Roll-out of BNG for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects is expected in late 2025.

Natural England has also created a Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan template to support management.

BNG Hierarchy

A new biodiversity gain hierarchy prioritises on-site BNG, which involves developers creating new habitats or enhancing existing habitats on the development site.

If this is not possible, developers can buy off-site biodiversity units from landowners via a private market. Landowners may include private organizations, farmers, local authorities and NGOs.

After both on-site and off-site BNG have been considered, as a last resort, developers will be able to purchase statutory biodiversity credits from the government. These credits will be reinvested in habitat projects.

Government says the delivery of BNG within the red line boundary must be considered first before looking off-site.

A case study shows how the former Southall Gasworks 88-acre brownfield site is being redeveloped with 3,750 homes. With a vast network of wetlands, meadows and native planting, the Berkeley Group development will create one of the most biodiverse new developments in the country, the company says.

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