Government is proposing to introduce a mandatory, standardised approach to bringing biodiversity net gain into new developments in England.
Developers, planning authorities, environmental professionals and other interested groups have until 5 April 2022 to have their say on a consultation seeking views on how best to achieve this.
As well as being delivered in a way which helps to reduce and restore any biodiversity loss during the building phase, completed developments will need to demonstrate a 10% boost to the area’s biodiversity, under the Government’s proposals.
Mandatory biodiversity net gain will be implemented through the planning system.
Developers will be required to demonstrate that they will deliver a minimum 10% net gain of biodiversity “units” for area-based habitats and relevant linear habitats, such as hedgerows, lines of trees, and watercourses.
Prior to the commencement of a development, a biodiversity gain plan must be submitted to the relevant planning authority for approval.
This process will be in addition to existing requirements for Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment, and Habitat Regulations Assessment. It is anticipated that reporting will be aligned to avoid duplication.
The consultation also considers “buying” and “selling” biodiversity net gain units, developing biodiversity net gain off-site and “habitat banking.”
It is expected to be introduced for applications requiring planning permission under the Town and Country Planning 1990 Act from November 2023. The biodiversity plan will either be submitted at the planning stage, or after planning permission and before site commencement.
For phased developments, the proposals recommend that developers should explain the biodiversity strategy for the whole site and demonstrate how this could be delivered on a phase by phase basis.
Developers will know that the National Planning Policy Framework already encourages net gains for biodiversity for local planning authorities drawing up their local plan policies.
The proposals suggest exempting householder developments, change of use applications, self-build and custom-build and developments that will have a minimal habitat impact due to their nature.
On the flip side, previous proposals to exempt some brownfield sites, temporary permissions and developments where permitted development rights are not applicable because of conservation or national park status are being reconsidered.
Smaller sites, those with fewer than 10 residential units or an area of less than half a hectare, may only require a simplified biodiversity plan based on specific “small site metrics” and may have longer than the two-year transition period for the introduction of mandatory plans.
Natural England is developing a biodiversity metric which developers, ecologists, planning authorities, communities and landowners can use to measure how development will alter the biodiversity value of a site.
Broadly, users will need to record the types and sizes of habitats on and off-site, the size or length of each habitat, its condition and whether sites are in nature priority locations via the use of a series of online tools to measure biodiversity gain.
The consultation on mandatory biodiversity net gain in new developments is now open and runs until 5 April 2022.
Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. For the most up to date Premier Guarantee technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the Premier Guarantee Technical Manual.