What is Biodiversity Net Gain?
In response to the extremely poor state of biodiversity in the country, the United Kingdom government enacted the the Environment Act 2021 which requires a 10% biodiversity net gain per development compared to the site pre-development.
Why Biodiversity Net Gain?
The United Kingdom is one of the world most nature depleted countries. The biodiversity net gain requirements have been stipulated to create developments that enhance biodiversity.
The regulation require that from November 2023 all strategic sites must achieve a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain, whilst smaller sites are required to start meeting the deadline from April 2024.
The United Kingdom government has issued guidance setting out the shape of the new framework which requires conservation covenants to be entered into with registered responsible Local Planning Councils. The conservation covenants are registered on the land providing the BNG mitigation opportunity.
Currently we are working with Local Planning Authorities using planning agreements to secure BNG sites, in due course it is anticipated that secondary legislation will be issued from the government to provide a more detailed framework for operation.
The BNG Bank
The emphasis from the government is to retain existing valuable habitat on development sites. This will be scored the most highly. Replacing or enhancing a habitat on the same site, would be the next most highly scored habitat.
Offsite mitigation has the least habitats value because the government is trying to incentivize onsite biodiversity improvements. Offsite mitigation is often required on smaller sites or in instances where the 10% BNG improvement cannot be met on site.
Development sites requiring to offsite their BNG requirements can register on the BNG Bank.
STEP 1 - BASELINE SURVEY
Existing habitat types
Existing habitat condition
Existing habitat extents
STEP 2 - SCHEME DESIGN
STEP 3 - OFFSET MITIGATION
The BNG Bank
Every site that gets put through development will have a baseline assessment and the data that baseline assessment. That will give the a baseline score and then the site needs to achieve a 10% improvement on that baseline score as a requirement to get planning permission.
Each different type of habitat gets a different score, so when you actually look at the metrics, they're scores for linear habitats. There are scores for grasslands. There are scores for hedge rows. There are scores for Woodlands.
When undertaking offsite mitigation, you need to match the exact existing habitats lost on the development site. If there is a loss of meadowland and grassland then you're looking to deliver an uplift meadowland and grassland.
Similarly if you're losing your hedgerow, they need to replace with hedgerow.
Which means that an offsite biodiversity site needs to be aware of the types of habitat that the developer needs to replace. The matching process is more complicated.
Our BNG Bank undertakes a baseline survey of the habitats and then the proposed habitats enhanced are designed and agreed with the Local Planning Authority.
We set out in detail the proposed offsite enhancements or improvements according to specific habitats.
We populate the available BNG credits and land areas on our database.
We set and deliver a detailed management and maintenance plan over the the mandatory 30 years monitoring period.
Our BNG Bank has regional sites to service both strategic development sites and SME developers. For further details register your requirements at BNG Bank portal.
Implications for Developments
On brownfield developments the baseline could initially be very small and hence the enhancement required will be limited.
Opportunities for onsite BNG enhancement include the introduction of green/blue roofs. Where this is not viable or is constrained by conservation designations then we can provide offsite mitigation via the BNG Bank.
Greenfield Developments & Strategic Sites
Greenfield and strategic development sites are significantly more complicated and require a detailed analysis at early masterplanning stage in order to maximise the opportunity to preserve and enhance existing on site biodiversity on development sites.
The design strategy has to consider all the other environmental and infrastructural requirements like SuDS and Nutrient Neutrality where applicable. Through our dedicated network of ecologists, landscape architects and infrastructure engineers we can help developers and strategic landowners deliver a strategic resolution which maximises the potential of the site, enhances the environment and reduces overall infrastructure costs.
Therefore we can help deliver a more robust solution and provide offsite BNG credits when required.