About this good practice
The biodiversity net gain planning policy will require developers in England to create an increase in biodiversity of at least 10%, either on the site being developed or, if that is impossible, elsewhere. It is a national policy that is set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan which strengthens the requirements in planning policy. The aims are to ensure that the loss of biodiversity through development is halted and that ecological networks are restored. The habitat will be protected for at least 30 years via planning obligations or conservation covenants.
The policy will be implemented using a matrix and a framework to calculate the increase in biodiversity that is required for each development site, based on the size of the site, the quality and the location.
The key stakeholders of this policy are developers who are in charge of increasing biodiversity and local authorities that are in charge of enforcing it through the management of planning permissions. The main beneficiary of this policy will be the natural environment but also the new residents in the development and existing residents in neighbouring areas which will benefit from the protection and enhancement of the local green infrastructure.
Cornwall Council, one of the members of PERFECT, has been been piloting the policy since March 2020 ahead of its introduction to national planning policy.
This is a nation-wide project that requires significant and complex investment, including:
- £4 million from Government to train local authorities to plan the oversight of BNG
-The cost to developers to implement BNG, expected cost between £9,000 and £15,000 per biodiversity unit
Evidence of success
Not currently possible to demonstrate the success of this practice nationwide as it will not be implemented until Winter 2023. Cornwall Council has been a trailblazer introducing the requirement in March 2020. Applicants have responded well with the majority of application meeting targets. Offsite compensation has only been required on 4 occasions with a total of £50,000 used by the council for habitat creation. The early implementation of BNG has resulted in an additional 850 measured net gains
Potential for learning or transfer
This practice would be beneficial for all the regions across Europe as there is an increased demand to deliver new housing developments, whilst at the same time there is an imperative to protect the natural environment.
The development of this good practice in England has been time consuming because it is a nation-wide policy, and the English planning system is complex with many parties involved. However, the delivery and implementation of this initiative are at the local scale. Any region could use and adapt the matrix to calculate biodiversity units and targets to ensure that new developments protect the local biodiversity.
Cornwall’s pilot project is a good example of a local authority being a trailblazer applying this policy. Some of the challenges they face in early delivery have been the lack of formal guidance, the necessity for applicants and officers to learn the concepts outside of a national programme and the time it takes to develop working practices from scratch.