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Biodiversity Net Gain

Introduction to Biodiversity Net Gain

You’ve heard the name, you may well have thought about it within your planning applications, but what are the wider impacts of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on development viability?

The Environment Act 2021 introduced BNG as a strategy to develop land and contribute to the recovery of nature. Government guidance describes BNG as “a way of making sure the habitat for wildlife is in a better state than it was before development.

The Act requires that schemes must have a 10% minimum net gain. The majority of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will seek a 10% contribution however some may require more.

BNG holds an integral part within the planning process and is directly related to the Government’s overarching environmental sustainability objective, which is imbedded in national policy and guidance.

Government Guidance

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs guidance (Understanding biodiversity net gain) states the following:

You must try to avoid loss of habitat to a piece of land you plan to do development work on. If you cannot do this, you must create habitat either on-site or off-site.

On-site means on the land your development work is on. Off-site is either your own land away from the development site, or you have bought units from a land manager.

If you cannot use on-site or off-site land, you must buy statutory credits from the government. You must provide evidence for using this option. This must be a last resort. The government will invest in habitat creation elsewhere in England.

You may be able to combine all 3 options to make up your BNG. You must discuss this with an ecologist, as you will need to prove why you cannot use one option. You must get approval from your local planning authority before you start building.

How can BNG impact my development?

BNG shall be mandatory for major developments from November 2023 and for smaller schemes from April 2024. Therefore, it is becoming a looming matter for applicants, developers, and consultants to consider.

The first key point is to consult an ecologist on a BNG strategy as early in the planning application process to provide advice on which of the three options may be utilised within a BNG strategy.

How can BNG impact development viability?

BNG shall have an impact on a development’s viability based on its cost. For many developments, increased development costs or offsite contributions could become an important consideration within a scheme’s viability.

For LPAs which require a higher contribution, this will be particularly subject to viability. Therefore, it may be necessary for your viability consultant and ecologist to work together to address this matter for your planning application.

If you require any further information on how BNG may impact your development, or viability generally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we would be more than happy to help.


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