In this article, we will go through BNG and how it may affect you.
The Environment Act 2021 set out Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and its requirements.
BNG in brief
Minimum of 10% gain in biodiversity delivered through the planning system
Habitat secured for 30 years by a legal undertaking
Who is this going to affect?
Well, for major applications from 12th february and all applications from 2nd April which affect priority habitat that do not qualify from one of the exemptions.
The main exemptions to BNG are;
Development subject to the de minimis exemption - development that does not impact a priority habitat and impacts less than 25 square metres (e.g. 5m by 5m) of habitat, or 5 metres of linear habitats such as hedgerows.
Self-build and custom build development - development which:
consists of no more than 9 dwellings, and;
is carried out on a site which has an area no larger than 0.5 hectares, and;
consists exclusively of dwellings which are self-build or custom housebuilding as defined in section 1(A1) of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015.
So we know who this affects, now for the how...
The BNG of a site is determined by the specified metric. Different environmental features have different weightings and the metric provides a uniform way of assessing the BNG capabilities of a site. This is converted in to units. So a site may comprise a number of hedges, grassland and ponds which is then displayed as a number of units.
There needs to then be a baseline figure (prior to development) and a proposed figure with a minimum of 10% Net Gain which is spat out from the metric in order to make any development acceptable.
What if you cannot provide BNG on site?
If you cannot provide the BNG on site, you are allowed to provide the BNG within the same local authority without penalty.
Where you cannot provide on site or within the same local authority, you can provide it within a neighboring authority but with a 50% penalty. I.e. you have to provide 50% more in order to offset the fact the BNG is provided within another authority.
Where you cannot provide any BNG, you are required to pay a fine to the local authority.
This is unfortunately where things get expensive. Statutory credits range from a minimum of £42,000 up to a whopping £650,000 depending on the habitat lost.
What's more, there is then a spatial risk multiplier’ (SRM) which will apply, which doubles the amount of statutory credits you need. The SRM applies to statutory credits to ensure they do not compete with the development of the off-site market and remain a last resort.
Therefore you must buy 2 statutory credits for every 1 biodiversity unit you need to compensate for.
I.e. the minimum a statutory credit will cost is £84,000 depending on the SRM.
This then, in effect, makes a lot of developments unviable. And there is only one place this figure is coming from, landowners pockets!
Whether the landowner is the applicant or a developer, this offsetting of BNG will come out of landowner pockets.
What is the answer?
Unfortunately, It looks as if BNG is here to stay despite its delays in implementation.
There is however a growing private market where land owners can look to provide BNG within local authorities so developers don't see the 50% penalty, which could prove to be the answer.
What do Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) do when it comes to BNG?
When an LPA grants planning permission for a development, the developer can then submit a biodiversity gain plan. The LPA will then decide within 8 weeks if the plan achieves 10% BNG. It is advised however that this is done in advance of the application to avoid delays.
What is required of the developer?
1. Completed biodiversity metric calculations.
2. Pre-development and post-development plans.
3. Compensation plan.
4. Site’s reference numbers from the BNG register.
5. Proof that they need (or dont) statutory credits.
6. Statutory biodiversity credits proof of purchase.
7. Habitat management and monitoring plan.
BNG in a nutshell. If you have any issues with BNG, or are looking to offset and buy credits in the North of England, do get in touch with the office to see if we can be of assistance.