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Publish date

24 October 2023

Set-back for Biodiversity Net Gain in England

Last month, I wrote about the principle of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), Defra’s development initiative which was due to be introduced in England in November 2023 – click here

By way of brief summary, BNG requires new developments to deliver a new increase in biodiversity of at least 10% on sites (subject to some limited exceptions). As the requirement lasts for 30 years, BNG focuses on ensuring new developments improve their local environments in a meaningful way. In Defra’s words, BNG is a plan “for new housing, commercial and infrastructure developments to be “nature positive””.

BNG has suffered a set-back, however, in the form of Rishi Sunak’s September U-turn on key green targets. BNG will now be introduced two months later than expected, in January 2024. The original timetable for transitional arrangements (April 2024 for small sites and 2025 for ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects’) will still remain in place, however.

The UK Green Buildings Council’s Deputy-Chief-Executive Simon McWhirter has said: “This is yet another blow to sustainable development and risks undermining national efforts to put the collapse of nature into reverse. Responsible developers large and small have been gearing up for this change for years […] This will be exceptionally damaging for their projected work pipelines, investment, supply chains and related jobs roles.”

Whilst the set-back will no doubt come as a frustration to many businesses who had been diligently preparing for BNG (especially given the short notice of the change), it is not all doom and gloom. Industry groups have pointed out that the delay will give those developers who weren’t quite ready for the introduction of BNG some much-needed extra time to prepare. It has, after all, been noted that much of the Government guidance surrounding BNG is vague and that a lot of the detail remains outstanding.

It is therefore hoped that the extension will not only give developers more time to consider the guidance, but also that the Government may release further Regulations and/or guidance in the meantime to better enable developers’ understanding of the full extent of their obligations.

For further information, please contact our Planning Team.

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