Biodiversity Net Gain: Many years in the making but now a New Year 2024 resolution by Carolyn Lord

Biodiversity Net Gain: Many years in the making but now a New Year 2024 resolution by Carolyn Lord

The Environment Act 2021 is set to usher in significant changes for land development across the UK, with a focus on biodiversity conservation through Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). In this article, planning specialist, Carolyn Lord, explains the latest developments surrounding BNG, its implications for developers, and the opportunities it presents for landowners.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) explained

Developments of all sizes will soon be obliged by the Environment Act 2021 to provide a 10% net increase in biodiversity, known as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) when land is developed. This initiative aims to mitigate the loss of biodiversity resulting from land development.

The impact on Leeds

In Leeds alone, BNG is expected to prevent the loss of 106 hectares of biodiversity while creating an additional 60 hectares of green spaces and habitats. The national figure is calculated as an additional 15,000 hectares plus of natural habitats as a result of these new requirements.

Delayed implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain

What has frustrated both developers and environmental interest groups has been the continuous uncertainty surrounding when BNG will be mandatory. Originally scheduled to start in November, the government recently announced a delay to January 2024 for larger schemes, with smaller sites requiring BNG from April 2024.

Local council initiatives

Some local councils have already been proactively seeking these net biodiversity improvements through adopted local policy. Other authorities are seeking a greater percentage of BNG than a 10% net increase. However, to seek a higher percentage than required by law we believe that councils will need strong local justification for such a policy.

Implications for developers & opportunities for landowners

Developers have had to provide compensatory measures for loss of biodiversity for many years, with a preference being for on-site measures, but dedicated and appropriate off-site projects have been accepted and this approach will continue. Off-site land may need to be acquired by the developer to satisfy the mandatory 10% net gain or they may partner with other landowners who have registered BNG delivery sites where financial contributions may assist, secured through planning obligations or conservation covenants for at least a 30-year period. There are therefore opportunities for third party landowners to partner with developers to provide BNG on sites unrelated to the development.

Government BNG commitment for 2024

The statutory provision was due to come into force for larger schemes from November this year but on 27 September 2023 the announcement was made by government that the timetable has now been put back to January 2024 for larger sites and April 2024 for smaller sites. The government has committed to publish all guidance and regulations on this, including the statutory biodiversity metric needed to calculate the correct biodiversity gain.

For advice on how this may affect a development proposal please contact Carolyn Lord or Kate Butterfield

Disclaimer: Anything posted in this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter.

About Clarion

Clarion’s construction team acts on behalf of clients in the public sector, developers ,contractors, and sub-contractors supporting these clients in the use of JCT, NEC, FIDIC and PFI contracts, and more recently providing advice in relation to the Building Safety
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