Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in practice so far…

We have been a little quiet on the news article front in the last month or so because we have been busier than ever with new enquiries and getting applications through as well as dealing Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) which, from April 2024, is impacting upon most submissions.  We have learnt A LOT in the last couple of months on how this is affecting the preparation of applications of all shapes and sizes so we thought we would do an initial top list of things to takeaway after this initial period:

  1. It is a legal requirement

We cannot stress this clearly enough.  Without the required information your application will unlikely be validated.  As a minimum the baseline of a site needs to be assessed which leads into Part 1 of the BNG calculations utilising the Government metric.  We cannot even complete the application forms which specifically ask for such information so no, this is not one we can “get around”.

  1. Planning ahead will benefit you (as well having a clear idea of what you want to do where)

Whilst the actual uplift, Part 2, can be secured via a pre-commencement condition it is well worth considering deliverability pre-application.  We have schemes, on smaller sites, where the initial BNG calculations and suggestions to deliver BNG have notably changed schemes.  Also, in one extreme case, the initial BNG reports resulted in a development being physically and financially unviable due to the presence of rare grassland creating such a high baseline/irreplaceable habitats.

Flagging such potential issues early can raise problems early to allow solutions to be found as well as avoiding (as an extreme example) unnecessary expenditure if a scheme does not go on to be pursued as a result of viability.

  1. It is a thirty-year commitment

BNG is a commitment for 30 years and must be maintained as such with a requirement to submit on-going monitoring reports at varying time intervals.  It pays, therefore, to plan ahead as to where future development may need to go within this time period to allow BNG to be suitably located and secured.

  1. Sourcing reports takes time

BNG is adding another layer of reporting to the preparation of applications, and this is taking time.  Even though some ecology companies that we work with do offer rapid upgrades to undertake surveys quicker there is still some back and forth between us, ecologists and the applicant to ensure that everyone is happy with any commitments made within the planning process.  This process is infinitely smoother, however, if you can be clear as to what you want to do and where and be mindful that if changes are made then this could incur additional costs as reports need to be re-done re-calculated if there are significant changes.

  1. Mandatory BNG does not apply to retrospective applications

But despite this, this does not mean that a Council’s local plan policy requirement, for an uplift in BNG arising from proposal, does not count and we are seeing some Council’s still requesting a metric, or using their own metric, to measure and secure appropriate BNG in accordance with their specific policies (which vary from Council to Council) so something to be aware of.