Consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

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In November last year, we posted about the Environment Act 2021, which passed into law on 9th November 2021. One of the key components of the Act is the requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG): an obligation for developers to ensure new proposals feature at least a 10% improvement to biodiversity.

This week, DEFRA launched a consultation on BNG Regulations and Implementation. The consultation sets out DEFRA’s proposals and asks questions on how the requirement for BNG will be applied to developments and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. The public consultation is described by Natural England as “the turning point in defining the direction for the secondary legislation and guidance to come.”

The consultation seeks views on the detail of how BNG should be delivered – details which will have significant implications for developers and landowners going forward.

Of note, the consultation document proposes exemptions from mandatory BNG for:

– Developments impacting habitat areas below a ‘de minimis’ threshold;
– Householder applications; and
– Change of use applications.

The consultation also considers whether exemptions should be made for the creation of biodiversity gain sites and self-build and custom housebuilding.

The following exemptions are now no longer proposed:

– Brownfield sites which meet set criteria;
– Temporary permissions; and
– Developments where permitted development rights do not apply due to their location in conservation areas or national parks.

Regarding small sites, the Government intend to pursue options for a simplified biodiversity metric to ensure that they can improve ecological outcomes with minimal burdens. It is also confirmed that a lower percentage gain would be inappropriate for small sites.

Furthermore, applications for outline planning permission and phased development will have additional requirements for BNG information to be submitted with the application, which will be set out in secondary legislation. Applicants will be required to explain the strategy to achieve the BNG objective across the whole site and demonstrate how this could be delivered in phases.

Details of the consultation can be found at the link below. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact us.