Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is an approach to development that aims to leave biodiversity in a better state than before it was developed. Until 2021, BNG was optional but now, it is a mandatory requirement for all new developments as part of the Environment Act which came into force in November 2021. This means that the new developments must increase their biodiversity net gain expert value by at least 10% or they will not be allowed to get planning permission.
To achieve a BNG, our CIEEM accredited ecologists carry out a baseline survey of the site and then undertake a habitat assessment. This produces a biodiversity score and then the target biodiversity score that the development must meet. To achieve this target score the developers typically carry out on-site biodiversity enhancements which include creating habitats, improving existing habitats and improving habitat connectivity. For sites with more important species or habitats, off-site improvements may be required as well.
It’s vital that the biodiversity requirements are addressed as early on in the project as possible. Our experienced ecologists work with clients to understand their development proposals and provide an early ecological appraisal of the site to ensure the correct mitigation strategy is put in place. This can avoid costly mistakes and help developers to secure planning permission with local authorities.
Biodiversity net gains can be achieved on site, off-site or a combination of both and it is up to the developer to demonstrate that they have met their BNG obligations as a condition of their planning consent. Our expert team of ecology consultants can assist with the preparation and submission of a BNG plan, providing detailed advice on meeting the minimum biodiversity offsetting target.
In addition to BNG, our team of experts are highly skilled in preparing and assessing habitats for their broader ecosystem services as well as delivering a wide range of environmental reports. We have extensive knowledge of the legislation and the processes involved in achieving environmental compliance and can advise on all aspects of ecology.
For local planning authorities, biodiversity net gains are an essential consideration for their decision-making when granting development consents. BNG is a new mandatory requirement that must be considered alongside the need for other core planning policies to safeguard wildlife and natural landscapes. To help local authorities prepare for the implementation of BNG, our team has created a series of short guides and videos to aid their understanding of the new requirement and how it will impact their decision-making process.
For landowners, incorporating BNG into the way that they manage their woodland and grassland can offer scope for measurable gains and the potential to benefit from a more financially rewarding approach to land management. The ability to offset unavoidable biodiversity loss by offering offsite benefits on or off the development site will also open up opportunities for diversified land use. The guidance and resources that we have produced for local planning authorities will help them to be ‘day one ready’ for the introduction of mandatory BNG in January 2024.