The Government has now published its response to the recent consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) regulations, it looks like we can expect a few changes in how BNG operates, and how net gains are to be delivered across developments.
The government has announced that it intends to introduce the mandatory requirement for BNG in November 2023, with changes introduced to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
We have always understood that offsetting biodiversity loss through the proposed payment Government scheme was the least preferable option, however developers were increasingly more willing to use this approach, especially where on-site offsetting opportunities were largely unavailable. This is now more evident, that statutory biodiversity credits (to be administered by Natural England on behalf of the Secretary of State) will be deliberately priced to be uncompetitive within the market, encouraging developers to provide their own on-site net gains or seek other BNG providers in the market. Further weight is added to this by the confirmation that on-site excess gains, that is gains above the statutory requirement of 10%, may be sold for the purpose of net gain offsetting on a different development site. Landowners may also create or enhance habitat for the purpose of selling the biodiversity units that are generated. Landowners may also sell their biodiversity units ‘stacked’ with any generated nutrient credits, provided that they are both generated from the same habitats, which are either creation or enhancement.
At Baker Consultants, we aim to work with our clients, planners and landscape designers to ensure that BNG is maximised on their own development sites, not only to improve nature but to reduce the burden of cost to our clients.
The Government has also clarified ‘additionality’ in regards to BNG. We now know that the statutory 10% net gain requirement must be achieved through BNG alone, and not through other mitigation, such as pond creation for great crested newts. However, as long as the statutory 10% net gain is reached, as outlined above, then further gains not specific to BNG offsetting can be included (such as open green space). This means that if you are seeking a District Level License for great crested newt, for example, it will not be counted towards your net gain calculation.
Whether or not you are a small or large scale developer, we welcome the opportunity to get the most out of your site with regards to BNG. Our team is highly experienced in undertaking BNG calculations and is up to date with new guidance and technical advances, and we expect v4.0 of the Defra metric and the Small Sites Metric to be just around the corner.
Andrew Baker is an expert in nature conservation law and appears as an expert witness or on behalf of clients at often contentious public inquiries.
If you’d like to speak to us, please get in touch on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01629 593 958.