Developers in England will now be required to deliver at least 10 per cent biodiversity net gain (BNG) on new developments.

Maintaining the environment while meeting demand for urban growth will be the challenge for developers from now on. The new BNG regulations will be applicable to all new housing, industrial and commercial developments in England as of Monday 12 February, meaning England is the first country in the world to make BNG a legal requirement.

Introduced through the Environmental Act, the BNG rules are part of a strategy to halt species decline in England by 2030. In an attempt to support the application of this new plan, the government has pledged £10.6m to help local authorities recruit and expand ecologist teams who will be instrumental to successfully implementing BNG and restoring and enhancing habitats.

What will developers need to do?

The rules are mandatory, and developers who fail to achieve at least 10 per cent BNG on-site will be forced to do so through a variety of techniques. The government is recommending the flowing:

  1. Create biodiversity within your sites boundaries.
  2. If on-site biodiversity cannot be achieved, developers will need to develop biodiversity off-site at another location.
  3. If developers cannot achieve biodiversity on or off site, they must purchase biodiversity credits from the government as a last resort. The government will invest this revenue in habitat restoration.

Who is exempt from the rules?

The BNG regulations will apply to all housing, industrial and commercial projects. Small-scale self-build projects with a maximum of 9 dwellings on a site with an area no larger than 0.5 hectares will be exempt from BNG.

How is BNG determined?

A Biodiversity Metric will be used to determine BNG. The Metric, outlined by Defra, will provide ecologists, developers and surveyors with a clear means of assessing biodiversity value on a site.

The assessment of BNG will compare baseline conditions to post-development plans, ensuring the post-development plans provide net biodiversity improvement. The entire process will involve a field survey before the development occurs, a comparison of pre and post-development habitat data known as Biodiversity Units, and a calculation of biodiversity net gain or loss, calculated using the difference between pre and post-development habitat data. 

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