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Biodiversity Net Gain: Laws and Planning 

Biodiversity Net Gain is a legal obligation for all developments in England under the Environment Act 2021, The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and a growing number of local Authorities.

 

Environment Act 2021

Part 6 on nature and biodiversity covers all areas of biodiversity net gain across two core sections. This Act mandates that all planning meets a minimum of a 10% gain in biodiversity calculated using the appropriate Metric and that the newly created habitats are secured for at least 30 years. 

 

National Planning Policy Framework

Biodiversity and environmental net gains are enforced in the revised NPPF within the following paragraphs (please refer to the NPPF for the full quotations):

 

Achieving sustainable development

 

Paragraph 8 Section C.  “an environmental objective – to protect and enhance our natural, built and historic environment; including making effective use of land, improving biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy.

 

Preparing and reviewing plans

 

Paragraph 32. “Local plans and spatial development strategies should be informed throughout their preparation by a sustainability appraisal that meets the relevant legal requirements. This should demonstrate how the plan has addressed relevant economic, social and environmental objectives (including opportunities for net gains). Significant adverse impacts on these objectives should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued. Where significant adverse impacts are unavoidable, suitable mitigation measures should be proposed (or, where this is not possible, compensatory measures should be considered).

 

Identifying land for homes

Paragraph 73 section C. “consider the opportunities presented by existing or planned investment in infrastructure, the area’s economic potential and the scope for net environmental gains

 

Transport infrastructure

           

Paragraph 104. “Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals, so that:
d) the environmental impacts of traffic and transport infrastructure can be identified assessed and taken into account – including appropriate opportunities for avoiding and mitigating any adverse effects, and for net environmental gains.
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Planning decisions

Paragraph 119 “Planning decisions and planning policy should a) encourage multiple benefits from both urban and rural land … and taking opportunities to achieve net environmental gains - such as developments that would enable new habitat creation.”

 

Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

 

Paragraph 174 Section D. “minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures

 

Habitats and biodiversity

 

Paragraph 179. “To protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity, plans should:

 

a) Identify, map and safeguard components of local wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity; wildlife corridors and stepping stones that connect them; and areas identified by national and local partnerships for habitat management, enhancement, restoration or creation;

 

and b) promote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species; and identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity.

 

Paragraph 180. “When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:

 

a) if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused;

 

b) development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and which is likely to have an adverse effect on it (either individually or in combination with other developments), should not normally be permitted. The only exception is where the benefits of the development in the location proposed clearly outweigh both its likely impact on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest, and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest;

 

c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists;

 

and d) development whose primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be supported; while opportunities to improve biodiversity in and around developments should be integrated as part of their design, especially where this can secure measurable net gains for biodiversity or enhance public access to nature where this is appropriate.”

Local Authorities  

 

A number of  local planning authorities are now stipulating the requirement of a BNG report for new developments, enforcing the new NPPF in line with guidance from both DEFRA and Natural England, and are applying a 10% biodiversity net gain requirement to future proof their respective local policies to meet the requirements of Environment Act 2021.

Having a BNG for your development will avoid the risk of the initial planning permission application being refused and prevent potentially costly delays to your  development schedule.

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