When Will Biodiversity Net Gain Be Mandatory?

The UK government has confirmed that mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) legislation for major developments will go live on the 12th of February 2024 and begin making mass impacts over England and representing a pivotal shift in sustainable development. It will affect smaller developments from the 2nd of April 2024.

The framework has taken years to cultivate, and from February no planning application will be granted without proof of being able to deliver and meet the 10% objective.

Gaia is here to make this transition as seamless as possible, such as with our Biodiversity Unit Marketplace that has over 14,000 biodiversity units readily available so developers can easily acquire planning permissions, land managers can easily and securely list their units, and LPAs can utilise our hub to tweak their operations to flow effectively within the new BNG context.

Biodiversity Net Gain for Small Sites

A frequent misconception of BNG is that it only affects major construction, however in April 2024 the mandate will extend to smaller sites. A site is considered small if it affects less than 5 metres of linear site habitats or less than 25 square metres (5m by 5m) of any habitat. Small residential developments include those with 1 to 9 dwellings or those smaller than 0.5 hectares if the number of dwellings is unknown. Small commercial developments are defined as having less than 1,000 square metres of floor space or a total area of less than 1 hectare.

Delayed From November

The BNG legislation was originally supposed to become legally binding from November 2023 but the Government announced that it would be delayed to get all the details and infrastructure finalised.

Government Resources to be Released

To bring new legislation means the government commits to release a comprehensive set of guidelines, resources and information to aid a seamless integration of the policy into the daily lives of the public. These are to assist the developers in navigating the actions and routes they should follow for their own needs. Multiple drafts have been released, so the public is up to date with the updates and changes being made, and official BNG guidance and a BNG statement have been published.

The Statutory Biodiversity Metric

When BNG becomes mandatory the latest version of the metric will have to be used. The current Biodiversity Metric is version 4.0, published by the government in March 2023.

Alongside this they have released extensive guides and tools to navigate the measurement. In effect, it will calculate the biodiversity value of a site, how much will be affected by the development, and what value needs to be reattributed either on-site or off-site for the objective to be met. 

Biodiversity Gain Plan Template

Once biodiversity net gain becomes mandatory, all planning applications will have to contain a unique Biodiversity Gain Plan. A Biodiversity Gain Pain Template has been collaborated on by DEFRA, Natural England, Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and Housing and Communities.

Developers can use this to ensure they provide all appropriate information for the local planning authorities to assess and determine if the development can go forward. The template has also been thoroughly tested with LPAs and developers, taking on user feedback in draft stages to be well-optimised for eventual public use.

Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan Template

A Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan (HMMP) ensures that the planned biodiversity requirements of the site will be properly met and maintained over the 30 year period and that sufficient habitat creation can be cultivated.

The plan provides a detailed schedule of enhancements made on-site or planned routes of action offsite. It is a critical document, containing information such as when the 30-year period begins.

Governmental advice is to work with a professional ecologist to write it, but Natural England has created a helpful template to aid developers in this process which comes with a checklist and companion guide with habitat assessment criteria. The template works for on-site and off-site gains.

Biodiversity Net Gain Guidance Package

To further support the people affected by Biodiversity Net Gain, the government has released various statements with detailed guidance of the BNG requirements. The draft guidance has been subject to changes as the policy perfects itself during the convoluted process. The final guidance is now published for people to familiarise themselves with before the policy is in effect.

Biodiversity Net Gain Requirements

The Biodiversity Net Gain requirements encompass a range of ecological considerations, from specific habitat restoration to measured biodiversity value required to meet the net objective.

The requirements can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/understanding-biodiversity-net-gain

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