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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 905: Help with Planning Act 2008 reform and biodiversity news

Today’s entry reports on NIPA involvement with the Planning Act 2008 reform and new biodiversity net gain developments.

Planning Act 2008 reform

The national infrastructure strategy announced on page 84 that there would be reform of national infrastructure planning over the next two years or so. Since then there hasn’t been much in the way of detail or public progress – until now.

As Board Chair, I am delighted that the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA) is playing a key role in helping to launch the public-facing part of the reform programme, in three important ways.

First, the planning minister Christopher Pincher MP has today written a letter to NIPA members to set out more details of the reform programme, which can be found here.

Secondly, a (comprehensive and therefore long) survey of experience of the Planning Act 2008 and suggestions for its improvement has been launched today (open to non-members as well as members of NIPA) and can be found here.

Thirdly, the NIPA Annual Conference, taking place on the mornings of 7 and 8 July will be completely devoted to the reform programme. It will be addressed by the planning minister and government and Planning Inspectorate officials, and include a series of workshops where attendees can engage further on how to change the Planning Act 2008 regime to make it faster, greener and fairer. To find out more details and register, please visit the NIPA website here.

This is the culmination of a lot of engagement between NIPA, the Planning Inspectorate and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that started at the start of the pandemic, and NIPA is very grateful for the level of engagement and the role it has been given.

Please read the minister’s letter, complete as much of the survey as you feel able (by 2 July) and attend the conference to give your views, it is a great chance to help shape the future of the regime.

Biodiversity news

The ‘greener’ part of the reforms are currently proceeding faster than the others. As well as explaining what biodiversity net gain (BNG) actually is, the previous blog post noted hints that the government was planning on requiring nationally significant infrastructure projects to provide BNG, as the Environment Bill is requiring of town and country planning permissions. Things have moved apace in the ten days since then.

On Monday 14 June through the somewhat curious mechanism of the government response to the Dasgupta Review into the Economics of Biodiversity, the government confirmed that it was intending to amend the Environment Bill to bring NSIPs within the BNG requirement. See paragraph 2.12 of the response document.

A mere four days later, the government actually tabled the amendments to the Bill, which are numbers 194B and 201A in this document. Although just two amendments they are quite lengthy – seven pages – but here is a summary of what they do.

A whole new Schedule 2A is added to the Planning Act 2008 to deal with BNG. For development consent order (DCO) applications that have a national policy statement (NPS) in place, if that NPS requires BNG then the DCO cannot be approved unless it provides the requisite BNG (set at 10%, as for town and country planning applications). For any NPSs that don’t provide BNG, they must include it the next time they are reviewed.

For DCO applications that don’t have an NPS in place, and for ones that do have one but it doesn’t require BNG yet, the government may issue a ‘biodiversity gain statement’, which is basically a free-standing version of the part of an NPS that would require BNG. When there is an NPS in place it is called a ‘separate biodiversity gain statement’ and such a statement could amend the NPS to remove any inconsistencies.

A biodiversity gain statement must be consulted upon (NPS or not) and then laid in Parliament when finalised.

There is a definition of ‘excluded development’ that can be set out in later regulations, leaving the door open for certain NSIPs not to have to provide BNG.

No sign of any transitional provisions yet, but the Environment Bill would have to be enacted and then a biodiversity gain statement consulted upon and made before any DCO decisions would have to require BNG. I would expect something later will say which projects will be caught so that ones that were just about to be decided won’t suddenly have to provide BNG.

Draft revised versions of the suite of energy NPSs are about to be published, I wonder if they will include a biodiversity gain statement.

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