What is Biodiversity Net Gain?
Biodiversity Net Gain, or BNG, is a new mandatory condition attached to all planning permissions from this November, where any habitat lost by the development must be replaced with enhanced habitat elsewhere such that the improvement in habitat scores at least 110% of the value of the habitat that is being lost, according to a scoring metric for ‘biodiversity units’ developed by Natural England.
Full details of the new biodiversity net gain regime are set out in the Environment Act 2021, sections 98 and 99.
The new habitat can be created by improving those parts of the existing site that aren’t being built on (i.e. onsite), improving other sites not necessarily owned by the developer and anywhere else in England (i.e. offsite) or as a last resort by paying the Government to carry out the improvements (so-called biodiversity credits, but these are to be deliberately expensive so as not to interfere in the trading of biodiversity units.
Landowners have an opportunity to provide land for offsite improvements and be paid by developers to keep it in the improved condition for the required minimum of 30 years. Developers who provide more than 10% BNG onsite could allocated the excess to some other development to help offset the cost of their own development, so there are opportunities there.