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Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain arrives

Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain arrives

December 19, 2023

With Biodiversity Net Gain becoming mandatory next month, Ecology Planning Lead Dr Lynsey Robinson gives some useful explanation and background.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an approach to development, and/or land management, that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand.  It is intended to deliver measurable improvements for biodiversity by creating or enhancing habitats in association with development.  A national mandatory BNG requirement is currently expected to come into effect for new applications for major development from January 2024, following provisions set out in the Environment Act 2021, with more time given to small sites (April 2024) and Nationally Significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) (expected in 2025).

Secondary legislation and associated written guidance is expected from Government in November 2023, which will guide how BNG will be delivered across England, including the date on which BNG will become mandatory in the planning system.  Defra are publishing BNG updates on their Land Use blog if you would like to follow progress of the roll out Land use: policies and framework (blog.gov.uk).

Whilst the requirement to demonstrate and deliver at least 10% BNG and the core processes involved in doing so are set out in the national legislation, the requirement can be tailored to local circumstances.  The Authority’s BNG Technical Advice Note has been informing development in the National Park since it was published in January 2022 Biodiversity Net Gain Technical Advice Note (TAN) – South Downs National Park Authority.  This will be updated in early 2024 to guide BNG delivery within the National Park area, in advance of the regional Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) for Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex which are currently being developed and expected to be available in 2025.  BNG and LNRS were both set out in the Environment Act and aim to reverse the decline of biodiversity in England.  When available, the LNRS will provide the framework for a strategic approach to off-site BNG delivery, agreeing evidence-based locations to expand and connect existing habitat and provide wider environmental benefits, with the aim of creating locally driven, joined-up outcomes for nature.

Adonis Blue Butterfly by Daniel Greenwood

In BNG, Biodiversity Units refers to the output of the biodiversity metric and is the term used for the sale of off-site biodiversity units.  Statutory Credits are the last resort option for developers provided by Government, if the site’s BNG cannot be delivered onsite or via purchasing off-site biodiversity units.

We are following BNG developments and guidance closely and will be working with colleagues, Members and host authorities over the coming months during the BNG roll-out phase.  Further updates to follow!