The introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) into the planning process will have enormous implications for development on science and business parks and is something that must be considered from the outset of any development, but what is it?
Put simply; it’s an approach to development which leaves biodiversity in a better state than it was found. Biodiversity is already part of of the National Planning Policy Framework, but the current ‘no net loss’ approach is not sufficient to stop decline.
The forthcoming Environment Bill contains a number of targets, plans and policies, including Biodiversity Net Gain. This will introduce a requirement that (with certain exceptions) every planning permission granted for development in England, will be deemed subject to a pre-commencement condition. This condition will require approval by the local planning authority of the ‘Biodiversity Net Gain Plan’ for the site. The local planning authorities will only be able to approve the biodiversity gain plan, when they believe it has achieved the ‘biodiversity gain objective’.
The Biodiversity Gain Objective.
The biodiversity gain objective will be met if the biodiversity value attributable to the development exceeds the ‘pre-development biodiversity value’ of the onsite habitat by at least 10%. Gains will be mandatory and maintained for at least 30 years. They will be measured using a biodiversity metric currently being developed by DEFRA, but broadly speaking, BNG is calculated by deducting ‘pre-development biodiversity value’ from the estimated ‘post-development biodiversity value’.
The ‘post-development biodiversity value’ can also comprise of off-site options including; the enhancement of a habitat registered on the Government’s proposed ‘biodiversity gain register’, or by purchasing ‘biodiversity credits’ from the government. The cost of these credits will not be cheap; thus ensuring it remains attractive for developers to organise their own qualifying biodiversity enhancements.
The following are excluded from the new requirements:
- Nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIP’s).
- Marine development.
- Brownfield sites which do not contain priority habitats and face genuine viability issues.
- Permitted development and householder applications.
- Exempted development for which planning permission is granted by development order or urgent Crown development.
How can we help?
By using Landscape Architects and Ecologists from the outset, biodiversity can be baked into a development in an innovative, cost-efficient way. This will not only improve biodiversity gains, but will also ensure a successful journey through planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance.
It is clear that the Environment Bill will involve a huge shake up of development and planning and it is likely that extra costs will be incurred by developers. However, we believe that the UK’s construction industry has the knowledge and professional capabilities to overcome these challenges. Ensuring that we build a sustainable future our children can be proud of.
Author: Veronica Flemming, Senior Landscape Architect CMLI, ASA Landscape Architects