Biodiversity Net Gain Expert – How can we help?

Our team of biodiversity net gain experts at Collington Winter are experienced in assisting clients across the country with all of their needs and queries surrounding BNG. Biodiversity Net Gain planning law mandates that all development proposals/projects in England and Wales must comply with the principles of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), which requires consideration of the environmental impact. BNG will be enforced as a legal requirement from November 2023, although many local planning authorities have already been urging developers to adhere to the principles.

The objective is to ensure that proposed development projects have a positive, measurable impact on biodiversity. BNG is not only a policy requirement for planning consent, but also a planning condition that can significantly influence the decision-making process of planning authorities when deciding to approve or reject planning applications.

Collington Winter Environmental’s team of experts can assist clients throughout the country with their queries about Biodiversity Net Gain planning law, guiding them through the planning process and development consent with local authorities.

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity net gain plans ultimately ensure developers have to consider the impact their project or development has on the local environment and surrounding irreplaceable natural habitats and ecological features. As such, developers must change and adapt their planning processes to safeguard the local ecosystems and encourage habitat enhancements to ensure no damage is caused.

Leaving an environment in a better condition than it was prior to development is the ultimate aim of biodiversity net gain, and it can be accomplished by creating or enhancing a habitat surrounding and within the development itself.

To obtain planning permission for projects and developments, local planning authorities are commonly asking developers to meet the biodiversity net gain requirements before it becomes mandatory. This is ultimately in hopes that the developers can demonstrate how their project will benefit the environment around them. Complying with biodiversity net gain is a significant factor in whether planning permission is granted or denied.

When will Biodiversity Net Gain be mandatory?

It is important for all land developers to be aware of the legislation and the responsibilities expected of them surrounding mandatory biodiversity net gain in 2023. According to the Environment Act 2021, local planning authorities are now required to ensure that all permissions they grant result in at least a 10% increase in biodiversity. The Environment Act gained royal assent in November 2021. This mandate is set to take effect at the end of 2023 after a transitional two-year period has been provided for local authorities to put their policies and processes in place.

The National Planning Policy Framework in England, Paragraph 179 and 180, states that plans should identify opportunities for improving biodiversity and that when determining planning applications, local authorities should integrate opportunities to enhance biodiversity.

The Act requires developers to deliver a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) in their schemes, as measured through the Biodiversity Metric 3.0. Developers must demonstrate how BNG will be achieved through detailed plans, follow a mitigation hierarchy, guarantee the maintenance of BNG for at least 30 years, and participate in the creation of local nature recovery strategies and the national register of land used for biodiversity gain. The Act aims to encourage developers to consider BNG at the beginning of their projects to avoid complications and delays down the line.

The Environment Act will require the key points:

  • Developers must deliver net gains for biodiversity at a minimum of 10% through their schemes. This will be measured through a metric, currently Biodiversity Metric 3.0. This tool can help to identify your biodiversity unit score and translate it into the standards of local planning authorities.
  • A developer will need to demonstrate how biodiversity gain will be delivered on developed land. This will be demonstrated through the production of detailed Landscape Planting Schemes, Landscape Management Plans and Monitoring assessments for on and/or off-site.
  • A mitigation hierarchy is to be followed and demonstrated to avoid, minimise or compensate. If it is not possible to compensate on the development site, then offsetting will be required elsewhere.
  • Developers will have to guarantee the biodiversity gain is maintained for at least 30 years (as outlined in Landscape Management Plans).
  • New “local nature recovery strategies” will be prepared to geographically cover England by “responsible authorities”. This will encourage habitat creation and enhancement in the right places.
  • Conservation covenants will be a mechanism used to deliver this (this approach is in preparation by Defra and Natural England).
  • A national register of land used for biodiversity gain will be established. This will involve setting up a new biodiversity credits market.
  • Metrics are only concerned with habitats and do not take protected species into consideration.
  • Other ecological legislation and policies still apply.

How is BNG calculated?

Our biodiversity net gain experts calculate BNG by measuring the biodiversity value of a site pre development and post development.

To calculate the biodiversity value of a site, a biodiversity assessment is typically conducted, which involves surveying the site to identify its existing habitats, species, and ecological features. This assessment produces a baseline biodiversity score for the site.

Once the baseline biodiversity score is established, a target biodiversity score is set, which represents the net gain that must be achieved after development is completed. The target score is usually based on a specific percentage increase in biodiversity value, which is determined by local planning policies, and it varies depending on the type and location of the development.

To achieve the target biodiversity score, developers typically undertake a range of measures such as creating new habitats, enhancing existing habitats, and improving connectivity between habitats. The effectiveness of these measures in delivering the required net gain is then assessed through post-construction monitoring and reporting.

The exact method of calculating biodiversity net gain can vary depending on local policies and regulations, but the overall aim is to ensure that development projects deliver measurable, long-term benefits to biodiversity.

How can our Biodiversity Net Gain Experts assist?

Our biodiversity net gain experts can ensure your development projects are conforming to the current and mandatory legislation coming into force at the end of 2023, saving you both time and money. Following the guidance and rules surrounding biodiversity net gain will help you gain the required planning permissions from your local authorities to carry out your project.

Regulations regarding planning permission can vary across local authorities so it can be confusing and time consuming for developers to ensure they are following the correct rules. Our team of ecologists are experts in BNG and can keep you up to date with the current legislation and assist you with your biodiversity net gain plans and net gain approaches.

Our team’s experience and qualifications in BNG means we can support our clients efficiently, calculating their pre development biodiversity measurements to ensure the required gain is made post development in order to reach the required bracket that is becoming law in late 2023. We are experienced and passionate about delivering biodiversity net gain and can offer a range of services including consultations on site and off site, protected species surveys and expert advice and planning surrounding BNG.

To find out more how CWE can help you with your biodiversity net gain 2023 plans then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your queries. Contact us using the details below. 

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