On 21st February 2023, the Government published a raft of guidance documents, relating to biodiversity net gain (BNG).
Using biodiversity net gain, the aim is to leave the natural environment in a better state than it is found. This concept will be enshrined in law when parts of the Environment Act 2021 come into force, (which is anticipated for November 2023), meaning developers will have to deliver at least 10% biodiversity net gain and secure habitat enhancement for 30 years once their development has completed.
The published documents include:
- the response to the consultation of Biodiversity Net Gain Regulations and Implementation: Government response and summary of responses
- Guidance on Biodiversity net gain – Information you need for BNG
- Guidance on how to Sell biodiversity units as a land manager
- the guidance on combining environmental payments: Biodiversity net gain (BNG) and nutrient mitigation: Combining environmental payments: biodiversity net gain (BNG) and nutrient mitigation.
Ben Standing, a government and public law sector expert and partner at UK & Ireland law firm Browne Jacobson commented on some of key takeaways: “This new eagerly awaited guidance and consultation response does provide useful further information, such as small sites note being required to comply with mandatory BNG until April 2024. The consultation response explains that the delay for small sites being mandated to deliver BNG is intended to allow both local planning authorities and developers a longer period of time to adapt to the new requirements.
“In addition, there is greater clarity over which sites will be exempt from BNG, including at a minimum threshold of 25 m².
“It is also interesting to note that the guidance references that the Government has confirmed that they will be providing further funding of up to £16.71 million for Local Planning Authorities to prepare for mandatory BNG between now and November 2023. This is in addition to the £4.18million committed to in January 2022. A key issue for LPAs however will be how quickly this funding will be made available, and the ability to recruit suitably trained officers.”
“The new documents however don’t provide draft statutory instructions, and there is still a number of questions about how the market aspect of BNG will operate.”