Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development and land management that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand. It is intended to deliver measurable improvements for biodiversity by creating or enhancing habitats in association with development. Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain means that natural habitats will be extended or improved as part of a development or project. Development will be designed in a way that provides benefits to people and nature and reduces its impacts on the wider environment.
The requirement to demonstrate and deliver at least 10% Biodiversity Net Gain and the core processes involved in doing so are set nationally, predominantly via The Environment Act 2021, The Biodiversity Gain (Town and Country Planning) (Modifications and Amendments) (England) Regulations 2024 and The Biodiversity Gain Requirements (Exemptions) Regulations 2024. As a result, Biodiversity Net Gain will be mandatory for most development proposals approved for planning permission in England. The Government has set out national guidance in relation to Biodiversity Net Gain.
The requirement applies to planning permissions granted in respect to an application made after 12 February 2024. Permissions granted for applications made before this date are not subject to statutory Biodiversity Net Gain.
Every grant of planning permission in England granted in respect of an application made after 12 February 2024 is deemed to have been granted subject to the general biodiversity gain condition as set out in Schedule 7A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended by the Environment Act and the Biodiversity Gain (Town and Country Planning)(Modifications and Amendments)(England) Regulations 2024). However, commencement and transitional arrangements, as well as exemptions, mean that certain permissions are not subject to Biodiversity Net Gain.
Generally, from 12 February 2024, planning applications made for major development will be Biodiversity Net Gain liable. Major development is defined as follows:
- Where the number of dwellings being proposed is ten (10) or more;
- If the specific number of dwellings to be provided is not known, a site area exceeding 0.5 hectares.
- The provision of a building or buildings where the allocated floor space being created as a result of the development is 1,000 square metres or more;
- Where the development has an area of 1 hectare or more;
- Change of use applications over 1,000 square metres or more
- All full applications concerning mineral extraction and waste development
Initially, small development is subject to a temporary exemption from BNG. However, from 2nd April 2024, small development will also be Biodiversity Net Gain liable. Small development is defined as follows:
- Development where the number of dwellings proposed is between one and nine inclusive on a site and has an area of less than one hectare
- If the number of dwellings is unknown, then the site area must be less than 0.5 hectares.
- Development defined as less than 1,000 square metres of proposed floor space or
- Sites smaller than one hectare.
There are a number of exemptions to the above as set out in The Biodiversity Gain Requirements (Exemptions) Regulations 2024. Prior to submitting an application, check whether the development may be exempt. In the following circumstances, the national deemed biodiversity gain condition will not apply:
- “small development” (see above) – temporary until 2nd April 2024;
- development impacting habitat of an area below a ‘de minimis’ threshold of 25m2, or 5m for linear habitats such as hedgerows ;
- householder applications;
- development associated with the high speed rail network;
- development of biodiversity gain sites (where engineering works are required for habitats to be enhanced for wildlife);
- small scale self-build and custom housebuilding (meaning a development of no more than 9 dwellings and on a site no larger than 0.5 hectares and consisting of exclusively dwellings which are self-build or custom housebuilding.
Further guidance on the applicability of the statutory exemptions can be found in the DEFRA Land Use Blog Biodiversity Net Gain – what are the exemptions?.
Mandatory national Biodiversity Net Gain does not apply where planning permission is not required. As such, it does not apply to permitted development and prior approval applications or Review of Old Mineral Permissions. Biodiversity Net Gain does not apply to Permission in Principle applications (PIPs), though applications for subsequent technical details consent are subject to the national deemed biodiversity gain condition. Biodiversity Net Gain will also not apply to listed building consent applications, but please note that if these are made jointly with a full application which is not exempt from Biodiversity Net Gain, then Biodiversity Net Gain will be required for the full application.
BNG Guidance Note
Please note that the Somerset BNG Guidance Note is due to be considered by the Council’s Planning and Transport Policy Sub-Committee on 14 February 2024. This link includes all agenda paperwork, including the proposed final Guidance Note (incorporating proposed planning validation requirements) recommended for adoption.
The requirement to demonstrate and deliver at least 10% Biodiversity Net Gain and the core processes involved in doing so are set nationally and will be mandatory for most development proposals seeking planning permission in England. However, there are limited areas where the requirement can be tailored to local circumstances. A Biodiversity Net Gain Guidance Note has been produced to provide guidance and advice on calculating and delivering Biodiversity Net Gain in Somerset. It aims to ensure a consistent and efficient approach aligned to local policy context, by making clear the requirements and processes in Somerset.
The document is intended to provide technical guidance and is primarily aimed at the development industry (in relation to housing, non-residential, minerals and waste) as well as anyone considering promoting land for habitat creation and enhancement in Somerset. As such, the primary audience for the document is planning applicants, developers, planning agents, ecologists, landowners, land managers, land agents and site promoters. It may also be of interest to a wide range of conservation bodies and other technical stakeholders and the general public.
The intention is that this Guidance Note will be updated as necessary to respond to changes in national guidance, local policy development (including the Local Nature Recovery Strategy and the Somerset Local Plan), teething issues and challenges which arise, and other national and local context changes as considered necessary and appropriate.
The document provides information on:
- The policy context for Biodiversity Net Gain and how its delivery fits with national and local plans, strategies and objectives;
- What Biodiversity Net Gain is, the basics of how it works and when it applies;
- The key stages of the process in relation to planning applications;
- A sequential approach to be followed in determining whether Biodiversity Net Gain should be provided on-site, off-site or via statutory credits;
- A holistic approach to Biodiversity Net Gain with alignment to six Somerset Biodiversity Net Gain Principles, linked to objectives in existing adopted plans, strategies and projects;
- How to consider ‘strategic significance’ within the Biodiversity Net Gain Metric in order to deliver nature recovery in Somerset;
- How Biodiversity Net Gain will be secured from new development;
- How the Council will enable off-site delivery mechanisms to come forward in Somerset;
- How monitoring and enforcement of Biodiversity Net Gain is proposed to work; and
- Proposed planning validation requirements.
Draft Guidance Note Consultation
A draft Guidance Note was consulted on from 6 November 2023 to 4 December 2023. Consultation is now closed and responses have been reviewed, analysed, and necessary amendments made in response to comments as well as the national guidance and regulations. The adoption of the final Guidance Note is due for consideration by the Council’s Planning and Transport Policy Sub-Committee on 14 February 2024. Paperwork includes a Consultation Statement summarising responses and explaining how they have been taken account in production of the final document. In the meantime, you can download the draft Guidance Note below.