Government’s Consultation Response on Biodiversity Net Gain Regulations

Alice Davidson, Associate Director at Boyer in Wokingham, explains the results of a recent government consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain regulations and what it means for developers. 

The Government’s consultation outcome on Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) regulations and implementation has been published.

The headline is that mandatory 10% BNG will come into force from November 2023.

The Government has announced it will be providing up to £16.71 million of funding for local planning authorities (LPAs) to prepare for mandatory net gain between now and November 2023. However, what about the costs of delivering the BNG itself?

A recent survey of developers and land promoters undertaken by the Land Trust found that 50% of respondents said the BNG requirements would be “very challenging”. Only 13% considered the requirements to be achievable.

It is absolutely essential that the Government ensures that the national BNG credit system is in place prior to the requirements coming into force. The Government is seeking to make the cost of these credits unattractive to encourage on-site BNG. However, for sites where it is simply not possible to achieve BNG on-site, it is important that the costs of national credits aren’t so high as to stifle development.

yellow flower field during day time

Developers already face huge challenges to delivering housing. Recently this has included increased material costs, a challenging market due to the economic situation and a resourcing crisis in local authorities which leads to delays and impending changes to Building Regulations.

In my experience it is very challenging to deliver 10% BNG on-site whilst also ensuring all the other policy requirements are met and making best and most effective use of land in accordance with the NPPF. The added layer of complication brought about by the BNG requirements will be likely to reduce and slow down the delivery of homes. At a time when the economy is struggling and there is an ever growing need for homes including affordable homes and homes for first time buyers this presents a threat.

However, this situation may also provide opportunities. In relation to the supply of BNG units, landowners or managers will be able to create or enhance habitat for the purpose of selling biodiversity units, provided that they are able to meet the requirements of the policy. This includes local authorities. Suppliers of biodiversity units will be able to sell them to developers anywhere in England, provided that the use of those units is appropriate for the development and the distance between the development and the off-site habitat is properly accounted for in the biodiversity metric.

Developers will also be able to sell excess BNG units where their BNG off-set land provides additionality above the 10% requirement.

In terms of the impact on planning applications, there will be a requirement to submit a BNG Statement alongside a planning application before a BNG plan is submitted and approved prior to commencement of development. Legal agreements will be required to secure the biodiversity gains for a minimum of 30 years. The Government will publish guidance on this in due course.

Natural England will sell statutory biodiversity credits on behalf of the Secretary of State. Credit sales will be facilitated by a digital sales platform which is currently being developed and tested. An indicative credit price will be provided by June 2023.

The introduction of BNG will certainly provide some challenges, but those challenges are not unsurmountable and ultimately will help us create better and more environmentally responsible places for future generations.

Photo by Marcus Neto


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