INDUSTRY COMMENT: BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN GATHERS PACE AS NPPG (NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY GUIDANCE) ISSUES NEW GUIDANCE
by FIONA TIPLADY
The Government has recently issued details on how biodiversity net gain should be delivered as part of new development. Along with their response to DEFRA’s own consultation on mandating net gain in new development, it has been confirmed that all new development must produce an overall increase in UK plant and animal life, either by way of the actual site or if that is not possible by contributing something to the local area or a list of government-approved sites.
The new guidance suggests that a variety of measures could be engaged to achieve net gain and ensure the habitat improvement will be valuable. It outlines four key areas:
- Developers must deliver 10% net biodiversity gain through their schemes
- Councils must produce ‘local nature recovery strategies’ and administer the system
– This will be a new area for local authorities to become skilled and experienced in which may take time and cost money.
- Developers will have to buy ‘bio-diversity units’ if they can’t deliver bio-diversity locally
– This is a significant shift meaning developers must invest in bio-diversity through the government’s schemes, even if they cannot utilize the site itself. Previously developers paid a tariff, however the new guideline is more pointed.
- Developers have to guarantee the ‘net gain’ benefits are maintainable for at least the next 30 years, and authorities must police this.
Is this different from before?
Yes, unlike before where this wasn’t a priority in all developments, the government is responding to the very urgent need to address ecological impacts and enforcing this through policy. This new legislation ensures that every scheme must provide a certain quantum of net-gain.
This could be a difficult change for developers. It means always looking to provide sufficient capacity in the appropriate places to create meaningful net gain and ensure that there is a mechanism in place for its retention and enhancement over 30 years plus. There is also the question of how the land is valued at the moment in terms of its biodiversity. As such, we understand there needs to be a baseline methodology as to how land is assessed in a consistent way.
By the very rural nature of the proposals we work on, Rural Solutions are experienced in accommodating biodiversity net gain within our work. It is important to us, that we promote responsible and sustainable development in the countryside and that it fits sensitively within its setting and often that means planning for minimal impact to plants and animals that maybe affected by the site. We welcome that this is now being reflecting in all planning work.
We are looking to continue to improve our understanding of this subject and grow our proposition based on this. If you would like to discuss how biodiversity net gain affects your plans, please contact our planning team.