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Home / Expertise / Sectors / Transport and Infrastructure / Biodiversity Net Gain / Implications for property developers
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Implications for property developers

Biodiversity Net Gain, or BNG, is a new obligation that applies to all planning applications from November 2025. Developers are required to improve biodiversity by at least 110% compared with what is being lost by the development.

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain, or BNG, is a new mandatory condition being attached to all planning applications affecting at least 25 square metres of habitat, where any habitat lost by the development must be replaced with enhanced habitat elsewhere. The improvement in habitat needs to score at least 110% of the value of the habitat that is being lost, according to a metric giving a score in ‘biodiversity units’ developed by Natural England. There must be a commitment to maintain the new habitat in its target condition for at least 30 years.

Some local authorities may have stricter policies than the statutory minimum of 10% net gain, although the government is now discouraging this. You can check your local authority’s BNG policies via our table which contains links to England’s 317 local councils’ and 10 national park authorities’ references to BNG.

Full details of the new regime are set out in Schedule 7A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

It is essential to become familiar with this new regime, whether you are expecting to make a planning application, are looking to earn money from developers looking for enhanced habitat, either as a landowner or broker, or work for a local authority planning team. 

What to do if you are making a planning application?

If you are making a planning application you will need to provide additional information with it that has been added to the standard application form. You will either need to explain why you do not need to provide BNG (perhaps you come under an exemption), or you will need to provide information about affected habitat with your application.

The exemptions are limited to householder applications, smaller custom build and self-build applications, biodiversity gain sites, and HS2-related applications. Also exempt are any applications where the amount of habitat within the red-line boundary that will be affected (ie its habitat score will reduce) is less than 25 square metres, there is no priority habitat affected, and less than five metres of hedgerows and watercourses are affected. Additionally, if the habitat will be fully restored within two years, then you do not need to provide BNG.

If you do have to provide BNG, your planning application must include:

the completed biodiversity metric spreadsheet for the site;
specifications of any degradation in habitat that will occur, and;
set out any ‘irreplaceable habitat’.

If you need help making a planning application subject to BNG, let us know.

What to do once you get planning permission?

Once you get planning permission, but before you can commence the development, you must complete and submit a ‘biodiversity gain plan’ to the local authority, who must approve it. There is a template of the plan available here. You have three options for securing biodiversity net gain (or a combination of the three):

enhancing or creating habitat within your development’s red line boundary (‘onsite BNG’);
enhancing or creating habitat somewhere else or paying someone else to do it (‘offsite BNG’); or
paying the government expensive biodiversity credits.

If you are providing the BNG onsite, then you must commit to creating it and then maintaining it for at least 30 years. This is achieved either via a condition on your planning permission, entering into a s106 agreement with the local planning authority with that condition, or entering into a conservation covenant with a responsible body that contains similar promises. Regardless of your chosen option, a ‘habitat management and monitoring plan’ will need to be completed, setting out how you will manage and monitor the habitat. If you need help with a s106 agreement or conservation covenant, let us know.

Read on for a selection of case studies which explore in detail the practical implications of BNG for developers.

A housing development of no more than nine dwellings.

Does the obligation to provide biodiversity net gain for small developments differ?

A small housing development

A housing development of no more than nine dwellings. Does the obligation to provide biodiversity net gain for small developments differ?

The obligation to provide Biodiversity Net Gain is delayed until April 2024 for small developments such as this (the definition of small developments being nine or fewer dwellings or <0.5ha for a residential development where the number of dwellings is unknown at the time, or 1000sqm for non-residential development or <1ha if the floorspace is unknown at the time).  Such developments will also be able to take advantage of the ‘small sites’ metric, which is a bit simpler than the main metric calculation (but not much).

An application for change of use from an office to residential.

Does a change of use application require BNG provision even if there is no development?

A change of use application

An application for change of use from an office to residential

This may be a surprise to many, but a change of use application does require the provision of biodiversity net gain even if there is no physical development contemplated.  In most cases, the habitat score for the existing site will be zero as it will have been completely built upon and so no BNG is needed; however if it is non-zero, then something will have to be done. The existing habitat will provide for 100% of the biodiversity score but the extra 10% will need to be found through improvement onsite or by finding offsite biodiversity gain land.

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