Biodiversity Net Gain: Updates & Actions

The countdown is on to Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) becoming mandatory in November and, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a steady stream of information and guidance coming through from DEFRA.

But what are the most recent updates and what actions do they prompt from those with a focus on BNG?

Clarification on mandatory BNG

Update – In July, DEFRA confirmed that mandatory BNG will only apply to new planning applications after November 2023, when BNG becomes mandatory. Planning applications which have already been submitted will not be subject to the mandatory 10%.

Action – If a planning application is being submitted prior to November, the applicant should be aware of what the local planning authority expect in relation to biodiversity. Some local planning authorities are seeking a 10% uplift already, whereas others are looking for no net loss so be clear on what the existing local policy is. If a planning application is expected to be submitted in November onwards, the proposals should be aiming to achieve 10% net gain in all habitat categories on site (area, linear hedgerow and watercourse). For further info take a look at:

Statutory credit prices

Update – Statutory biodiversity credits are the credits available from the Government for offsetting developments which will result in a net loss of biodiversity. Prices range from £42,000 per credit for low (and some medium) distinctiveness habitats, up to £650,000 for high distinctiveness lakes. It is also worth noting that two credits will be required for each habitat unit that needs offsetting, therefore these costs must be doubled.

Action – These credits will be available to purchase once BNG is mandatory, however, they should be viewed as a last resort and this is reflected in the price per credit. The mitigation hierarchy should be strictly followed throughout the design process for proposed schemes and biodiversity should be considered at the earliest stages. Landowners/developers should have a baseline assessment carried out before deciding on a layout to avoid impacting medium or high distinctiveness habitats, and to identify habitats which are suitable for enhancement. Five case studies demonstrating how the metric can be used to guide this process and produce best results are available at:

Conservation covenants and responsible bodies

Update – A conservation covenant is a voluntary legal agreement which aims to conserve a piece of land, and a method via which habitats subject to BNG will be secured for 30 years. DEFRA are now requesting that organisations apply to be a responsible body. The role of responsible bodies will be to ensure that the requirements of the conservation covenant are being met, including ongoing monitoring and enforcement.

Action – Applications to become a responsible body are now open to local authorities and any organisations with a full or partial focus on conservation. DEFRA have released the criteria for becoming a responsible body and, should an organisation meet all criteria, they can apply to be a responsible body.

Guidance and funding for local planning authorities

Update – In addition to government funding provided in February, a further £9m has been provided by DEFRA to support local authorities in preparing for mandatory BNG. This funding will be used to create green jobs and provide specialist training and resources. Furthermore, new guidance has been released on how local planning authorities can prepare for BNG.

Action – All local planning authorities should now be familiar with BNG and be taking steps to thoroughly prepare. The new guidance details 10 considerations to make prior to November, including how BNG relates to Local Nature Recovery Strategies and Biodiversity Action Plans. Where necessary, local planning authorities should also be recruiting and training staff to have the resources to efficiently manage BNG within the planning process. For further info, take a look at:

Training and development

Update – CIEEM and DEFRA are releasing regular updates on BNG and hosting online training sessions on various topics, such as the use of the metric and how BNG applies to landowners. DEFRA have also established a land use blog where they will post guidance, case studies and updates for BNG and other land use matters, such as nutrient neutrality.

Action – These online resources and training opportunities are significant for anyone whose work is focused on, or influenced by, BNG. This includes ecologists, planners, developers and landowners. Taking advantage of all available resources now means these professions will be better equipped to manage BNG come November and will ensure a smooth transition into mandatory BNG. For training take a look at:

Still to come

  • Secondary legislation clarifying various aspects of BNG including exemptions and irreplaceable habitats
  • An official list of responsible bodies
  • The BNG register which will go live when BNG becomes mandatory
  • A Habitat Management Monitoring Plan template, provided by Natural England
  • The Statutory Metric, although there will be a brief transitional period from November for schemes still using 4.0

Get in touch