Biodiversity Net Gain Scotland: Understanding BNG

Biodiversity Net Gain Scotland

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is an approach to development whereby developers consider the long-term environmental impacts a project will have in terms of biodiversity. It aims to ensure the biodiversity is left in a better state than before the development was completed for local people and future generations. This is done by avoiding loss of biodiversity and retaining natural habitats and ecological features.

Following the passing of the Environment Bill, mandatory biodiversity gain for developments in England and Wales will be introduced through the forthcoming Environment Act in November 2023.

Unlike England and Wales, Scotland has not followed the model of imposing a legal requirement to deliver biodiversity net gain. Alternatively, the Scottish Government published a proposal to deliver biodiversity gain through the National Policy Framework (NPF). The national Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 changed the content of Scottish development plans. Therefore, the NPF will form part of the development plan.

Whilst biodiversity net gain is not a legal requirement in Scotland, it can bring a range of positive effects for the local environment and should still be encouraged for all developers to follow.

biodiversity net gain cambridge

Biodiversity Net Gain aims


Although BNG is not mandatory in Scotland, its aims can still be implemented in order to achieve positive results for habitats and protected species across Scotland. The main aims of delivering Biodiversity Net Gain are:

  • Enhancing biodiversity: BNG aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before development takes place. This is achieved by ensuring that the biodiversity value of a site after development is higher than it was before. In cases where a development affects biodiversity, developers must ensure the provision of additional suitable natural habitats and ecological features, surpassing the impacted area by at least 10% compared to the initial baseline.
  • No net loss: BNG aims to ensure that there is no net loss of biodiversity as a result of development activities. This means that any biodiversity loss due to construction or other development activities should be compensated for elsewhere.
  • Improving ecosystem services: BNG seeks to enhance the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination, water purification, and climate regulation, which are crucial for human well-being.
  • Habitat creation and restoration: BNG encourages the creation and restoration of habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, grasslands, and other natural capital that support a diverse range of species.
  • Connectivity and green infrastructure: BNG promotes the creation of green corridors and connectivity between habitats, allowing wildlife to move freely and ensuring genetic diversity within populations.
  • Sustainable development: Biodiversity Net Gain, Scotland, aims to integrate biodiversity conservation with economic development. It emphasises the importance of sustainable land use planning and construction practices.
  • Adaptive management: BNG promotes the concept of adaptive management, which involves monitoring the biodiversity outcomes of a development and making adjustments as needed to achieve the desired net gain.
  • Public engagement and education: It encourages public engagement and education about biodiversity conservation, helping to raise awareness and foster a culture of environmental stewardship.
  • Long-term Sustainability: BNG aims for the long-term sustainability of biodiversity gains, ensuring that they are maintained and managed effectively over time.

Biodiversity Net Gain Principles

There are ten crucial good practice principles of biodiversity net gain. These should help to achieve positive results for the local environment if they are followed accordingly. The biodiversity net gain principles include the following:

  • Utilise the mitigation hierarchy to minimise the impact on biodiversity
  • Eliminate any negative impacts on biodiversity
  • Communicate each BNG outcome with complete transparency
  • Cover all areas of sustainability, including societal and economic factors
  • Involve any pre and post development stakeholders in creating net gain solutions
  • Focus on producing long-term natural net benefit for biodiversity. This will ensure a development leaves biodiversity in a better state than it was before
  • Understand the variable factors and potential risks in order to achieve biodiversity and deliver net gain
  • Offer nature conservation that exceeds the stated BNG requirements
  • Determine a suitable method in order to secure measurable biodiversity net gains
  • Ensure the best possible results from biodiversity net gain, Scotland.

Biodiversity requirements in Scotland

Local development proposals ought to receive endorsement solely if they incorporate “appropriate measures to enhance biodiversity in proportion to the nature and scope of the development,” with limited exceptions to this policy. In contrast to England, Scotland does not propose a nationally defined minimum level of biodiversity enhancement.

Furthermore, the approach avoids the use of a biodiversity metric model to calculate the required level of biodiversity provision. The determination of the suitable level of biodiversity enhancement is left to the discretion of the local planning authority rather than being stipulated at the national level.

Draft Policy 3 does not outright dismiss the possibility of off-site biodiversity enhancements, but it does not suggest the contemplation of a biodiversity credit system by the Scottish government. While the use of the development plan for biodiversity enhancement in Scotland offers a potentially more adaptable approach compared to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in England, the wording of NPF Draft Policy 3 introduces uncertainty regarding the expected level of biodiversity enhancement that developers may be required to provide.

Our team of ecologists and landscape architects have helped numerous clients over the years. Our clients have ranged from minor developments to major applications. If you would like to find out more about the services we provide, feel free to contact us using the details below.

How Can Collington Winter Assist with biodiversity in Scotland?

Collington Winter Environmental are experts in environmental planning and have helped numerous clients in Scotland over the years. Whilst biodiversity net gain is not a legal requirement in Scotland, we do believe that its aims should be implemented to maintain ecosystems for future generations.

We assist all types of developers in achieving environmental requirements to ensure planning permission is granted by a local planning authority in Scotland.

We are determined to offer you the support you need in order to reach any environmental requirements. If you would like to find out more about biodiversity net gain, Scotland, feel free to contact us using the details below.

We can assist with biodiversity net gain, Scotland, by providing: 

Please get in touch if you would like further information about BNG. We can also develop land management plans. We are happy to offer free CPD sessions on the BNG principles and how we can help your schemes achieve this.

Our Ecology Director, Olivia Collington, holds a Natural England biodiversity license. If you would like to find out more about the ecosystem services we provide, feel free to contact us using the details below.

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Future Business Centre, Cambridge Campus, Kings Hedges Road, Cambridge, CB4 2HY


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