It’s been decades in the making, but Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is finally mandatory for new developments in England.
From today, BNG will be mandatory for new planning applications for major development made under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1990, subject to the confirmed exemptions. Major development includes residential developments with 10 or more dwellings, or where the site area is greater than 0.5 hectares.
A separate BNG for small sites will have an extended transition period and will apply from 2 April 2024. And BNG for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) will be introduced in 2025.
In a press release from Defra, Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“Biodiversity Net Gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live.
This government is going further and faster for nature, since 2010 we have restored an area for nature larger than the size of Dorset, banned micro plastics and set ambitious targets to halt biodiversity decline.
This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”
And Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper, said:
“If we are to halt and reverse the decline of wildlife in line with our ambitious national targets then it will be vital to ensure that new habitats are created to compensate those being lost to developments.
Biodiversity Net Gain is a key moment on our path to halting the decline of nature, enabling developers to make a positive contribution through creating new habitats, increasing access to green spaces, and building healthy and resilient places for people to live and work.
Many developers are already using Biodiversity Net Gain in new developments and recognising the benefits for people and nature.”
Julia Baker CEnv MCIEEM, who has been central to progressing BNG to fruition over the years and one of our BNG trainers, said:
“England’s first phase of mandatory BNG is a significant milestone and represents the hard work, commitment and dedication of many. But while there is a lot to learn about mandatory BNG, let’s stand firm on good practice, especially for development to truly generate long-term and meaningful net gains in biodiversity.”
As a pioneer of the approach and a past CIEEM President, we also asked Professor David Hill CEnv FCIEEM for his thoughts on BNG finally coming into force in England:
“It was back in 2004, addressing what was then still an IEEM conference, where I raised the idea that development should actually deliver gains for nature rather than the system as it was then that did not account for biodiversity appropriately. Having done that I set up the Environment Bank in 2006 and spent most of my time lobbying Government to get a new approach into a regulatory framework.
I must congratulate Defra and Natural England for persisting with the whole scheme, such that we’ve got a policy now in law which I think is one of the most significant since the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981.
I think this is one of the most exciting times for biodiversity because, if you look globally, there are almost no similar compliance markets that will operate in the same way as BNG looks set to operate. And whilst there are still some teething problems around the balance between on-site and off-site delivery – and I really believe off-site is going to be much more beneficial for biodiversity than on-site – I think BNG is actually going to set the scene for an international take-off of something similar and we’ve seen that with people in the USA congratulating us in England for bringing into policy a compliant market for biodiversity and nature recovery.
Another positive is that although the demand for land is not going to be massive it will start to make a contribution to the 500,000 hectare nature recovery ambitions that the Government wants to see, and I think it is also the first time that we’ve seen biodiversity or nature made economically visible. We can’t just brush it all under the carpet now we know that it has a cost to us – and if it has a cost, it has a price, and if it has a price then it has a value. So for the first time perhaps, biodiversity is valued within the development sector because of the importance that’s placed on ensuring that we recover nature at scale, which we’ve got to do in view of the biodiversity crisis which is an existential threat to us all.”
Find all the information you need on BNG and links to further information on our dedicated Biodiversity Enhancement Approaches webpages.