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Counting down – preparing for mandatory biodiversity net gain

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Biodiversity

I recently wrote about the Defra Consultation on biodiversity net gain (BNG). The consultation seeks feedback on topics and issues relating to the development of the frameworks, legislation and guidance of mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG).

If you haven’t already responded to the consultation, please do! Remember the last day for comments is 5 April 2022.

To help stakeholders prepare for mandatory BNG, Natural England has produced a short, high-level brochure introducing BNG.

Cropped section from the front of the BNG brochure

The brochure summarises the forthcoming mandatory approach to BNG, the opportunities BNG presents and what it might mean for developers, landowners and Local Planning Authorities. It offers a great introductory resource, whether you’re new to net gain yourself or starting the conversation with others.

The brochure introduces the concept of net gain, highlighting the benefits it can deliver for nature, people and the economy. It also draws attention to resources that can be accessed now, with further information, guidance and advice on the approach as it develops.

So, are you and your organisation ready for biodiversity net gain?

What can you be doing to prepare?

Firstly, read the brochure and the consultation. Both set out information that can help you get ready for the implementation of mandatory BNG. Whilst some of the details of how BNG will work in practice are still unknown, there’s plenty that can be done now to help get ready for when it becomes mandatory in November 2023.

The transition period over the next 20 months or so, is an opportunity to get ready for BNG as a requirement on most Town and Country Planning Act developments. The more all of us consider how to implement BNG from our differing perspectives, the better the detailed guidance and outcomes will be.
Early consideration of BNG in your plans and projects is just one way in which you can start thinking, but here’s a few other things you can start doing now:

  • For local planning authorities (LPA), think about how biodiversity net gain fits in with your existing plans and strategies and how it can support your wider objectives. BNG can complement your wider biodiversity objectives, whether creating new green infrastructure or improving climate resilience. It’s also an opportunity to talk to others, including local wildlife groups and nature partnerships and work collectively to define what the priorities are for biodiversity in your area. How does this fit longer term with bigger, more joined up ambitions for nature’s recovery?
  • As a developer you can start thinking about how BNG fits with your projects as early as possible; evidence shows that the earlier projects start to think about BNG (if possible, at site selection/outline design stage), the easier you will find it to deliver alongside your other requirements or ambitions.
  • Landowners (including LPAs) can start identifying potential net gain sites and undertake metric calculations early on to establish the baseline value of sites. You could choose to wait, to secure a buyer for the biodiversity units you can create, or you could start the habitat improvement works now and benefit from the added value that creating habitats in advance gives. Starting work early can lead to more than doubling of the number of units available for sale within just a few years.

There are also actions that we can all take, for example getting familiar with processes and tools like the Biodiversity Metric - The Biodiversity Metric 3 training for Planners hosted by the Planning Advisory Service is a good place to start.

Finally, there are a number of ways to get involved with the work Defra and Natural England are undertaking to feed back and help develop the detail of how BNG will be implemented. For example, Natural England is eager to speak to users and future users, including developers, so that we are able to develop services which meet their BNG needs.

Kick-start your thinking with Natural England’s brochure on biodiversity net gain

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  1. Comment by Tony Powell posted on

    Kick-start your thinking with Natural England's brochure on biodiversity net gain, and let's kick-start nature's recovery together. Whether small or large farms and estates, horticulture businesses, gamebird rearing ventures, small family farms, EVERYONE, we need everyone on board. Just how are you going to do this, Natural England?

    • Replies to Tony Powell>

      Comment by Nicholas White posted on

      You are correct Tony, this does require the involvement of many different organisations. Please do draw your contacts attention to the brochure. We are also promoting it via other channels.

  2. Comment by Robert N Leatham posted on

    I really wouldn't know where to start. Maybe start with consideration about how to achieve the most cost effective end result as part of a strategic co-ordinated plan, as opposed to, wasting vast amounts of money on ecologically flawed calculations, ridiculously complex process that bleed money out of potential biodiversity gains at each and every stage. If this is the game changer that its supposed to be, then it needs a structured co-ordinated vision and plan to implement it. Instead we have complete disparity regarding its application, financially, practically and ecologically. Random opportunistic plots of land offered for sale by some wanting to make a quick buck. Overworked consultants and LPA ecologists not able to reach a cost effective practical solution. Its a champagne fountain of wasted opportunity, lip service paid to biodiversity by a government who haven't got a clue. Tax it on a simple process of ecological evaluation / area loss at the point of planning consent. Implement it via a dedicated national strategic body who fund project specific grant applications in land units located where enhancement / creation will have maximum biogeographical impact....something that BM3 / 3.1 and no doubt all versions that follow take no account of. Time to go back to the drawing board I'm afraid. Brilliant concept, appalling practical conceptualisation and cost / benefit.

  3. Comment by Celia Kennedy-Sloane posted on

    Please would you explain how the biodiversity net gain is to be monitored, once a developer has received planning permission? Which organisation is going to monitor for long term net gains, such as 20 to 30 years, as has been seen in some developers plans. What would be the repercussions if the developer fails to deliver the promised net gains?

    • Replies to Celia Kennedy-Sloane>

      Comment by Nicholas White posted on

      Hi Celia,

      The recent Defra Biodiversity Net Gain consultation set out thinking when it comes to monitoring biodiversity net gain over the period of the agreement i.e. minimum 30 years. Where a conservation covenant is used to legally secure the net gains then the responsible body for that covenant monitors. For all other scenarios it will be the Local Planning Authority. It will be the landowners responsibility to ensure that the biodiversity gains are delivered. Enforcement will be undertaken if and when necessary.

      Natural England will be undertaking national level monitoring and evaluation.

      • Replies to Nicholas White>

        Comment by Celia Kennedy-Sloane posted on

        If this is left to Local Authorities that are already starved of government funding for all services, this monitoring will never happen and developers will simply forget their obligations. A better monitoring system is required or much more government funding

  4. Comment by C mccarthy posted on

    I fully support net biodiversity gain

    • Replies to C mccarthy>

      Comment by Robert N Leatham posted on

      We all do, just not the mechanisms being used at present which fail to achieve it and needlessly waste vast sums of money and time. Simply tax it on true ecological value / area of loss. Implemented by a national body who allocate project funds by applications that have people / organisations ready to implement it.

      • Replies to Robert N Leatham>

        Comment by Richard Marsh posted on

        Robert - I totally get your comment - as a local government ecologist in the planning function I have just written up my concerns/thoughts of BNG and the missed opportunity of how it is being implemented. If you contact me directly by e-mail I would be happy to send you a copy.

  5. Comment by Oriana Ballesteros posted on

    Hello! I am a master's student and I'm doing my dissertation on biodiversity credits. How can collaborate with Defra and the private sector?