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In a groundbreaking shift in environmental policy, the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) framework has been set in motion to safeguard nature during development projects. Starting 11 November 11 2023, most developments in the United Kingdom must demonstrate a 10% boost in habitat biodiversity to obtain planning permission. This move addresses the alarming decline of species and highlights the vital link between the environment and economic stability.
Two Atlantic Puffins sitting on a green grass with pink flowers, Scotland.
The Environment Act 2021 introduced the concept of BNG, aiming to leave the natural environment in a better state after development. This applies to nearly all future development proposals, except small schemes (under 10 houses) until April 2024.
Developers must consider BNG as part of their pre-development plans. This involves assessing measurable improvements in biodiversity through habitat creation or enhancement. Developers must also follow the mitigation hierarchy, which includes avoiding habitat loss, minimising impacts, restoring existing habitats, and, as a last resort, compensating for unavoidable impacts by delivering additional biodiversity improvements off-site.
If applying the 10%-net gain renders a development unviable, developers can buy biodiversity net-gain credits, enabling off-site compensation. This approach allows landowners with suitable land for nature regeneration to collaborate with developers unable to achieve on-site net gain. This partnership creates a win-win scenario, enabling landowners to generate a new income stream while developers meet their net-gain obligations. Such arrangements align with national policy and can be mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
Local planning authorities will enforce the BNG framework, and developers must adhere to the BNG plan under legal agreements. A British Standard evaluation, employing suitable metrics, is conducted to assess the biodiversity on the specific site in the context of biodiversity units or statutory credits for biodiversity. Once credits are recognised and purchased, developers may secure planning permission, and landowners must ensure covenant compliance for at least 30 years. Failure to meet terms can result in local authority action.
As BNG reshapes planning policies, developers should consult experienced ecological consultants to navigate these new requirements and develop effective biodiversity net-gain strategies. Amidst the mounting challenges to biodiversity, organisations like DGB Group help to create a future enriched by the marvels of nature. Through our dedication to developing and implementing high-quality nature-based solutions, we chart a course towards a sustainable and bio-diverse planet.
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