What Is Biodiversity Net Gain?

As part of the 2021 Environmental Act, each submission for a new development whether it is one or 300 homes will be required to hit a target of 10% biodiversity net gain, some councils have opted to increase this target to 20%. Currently councils in Dorset and Hampshire are requesting a target of 10%. The legislation is in place to ensure that the existing habitats for wildlife are in a better state than they were before the proposed development.

However, there is a delay in implementing a biodiversity net gain for small sites which has been designed to lessen the initial burden and allow a longer period for developers and local planning authorities to adapt and prepare for the high volume for smaller applications.

Small sites are considered as;

For residential: where the number of dwellings to be provided is between one and nine inclusive on a site having an area of less than one hectare, or where the number of dwellings to be provided is not known, a site area of less than 0.5 hectares.

For non-residential: where the floor space to be created is less than 1,000 square metres or where the site area is less than one hectare.

The 10% net gain is measured by the DEFRA Biodiversity Metric which has been produced by the Secretary of State. However, there are some occasions when not all of this can be achieved on site. There is an option where you can agree with the planning authority to an offsite compensation. This is where the compensation will be used on a designated green space to develop the habitat and biodiversity further.

This legislation will apply to those that are a land manager, developer, or a local planning authority.

How Can We Help?

The Landscape Service, working in collaboration with other consultants will create a biodiverse proposed landscape design that will be compliant with biodiversity net gain.

There are a numerous number of tips and tricks that we use in our landscape plans which help increase the biodiversity throughout the proposed site. A couple of features that we have been including in our landscape plans for several years is, when there needs to be a hedge specified, if possible, try and include a fully native hedge. This will encourage nesting birds and foraging animals to the location. Lawns are surprisingly or unsurprisingly are of very low value when it comes to biodiversity enhancement. We at The Landscape Service, when it is possible, try and specify a wildflower turf as this will attract more pollinators, native insects, birds, and other animals compared to your standard turf.

biodiversity net gain native planting plan in Dorset
Biodiversity net gain native planting plan in Hampshire

What Do You Need To Do To Achieve Biodiversity Net Gain?

To achieve a biodiversity net gain of 10% a detailed landscape plan, showcasing proposed and existing trees, planting areas and hard landscape areas as well as property locations will need to be completed. This plan will need to be supported with a square meter plan which will allow us, or an ecologist to complete the biodiversity net gain metric.

The habitats that are created or enhanced as part of the BNG have to be maintained for a minimum of 30 years.

biodiversity net gain plan
Urban greening factor plan

Are There Any Exemptions?

Yes, if your development falls under permitted development, which is a larger single storey rear extension subject to a ‘Prior Approval’ process of up to 8m on a detached house and up to 6m on any other house. The net gain is also exempt if the site is on a brownfield site, but that is under specific criteria. Urgent crown developments or any other project that are put forward by the Secretary of State, Nationally significant infrastructure projects such as railways, marine development (this is to be a separate condition) are also exempt from this condition. Irreplaceable habitats, which includes sand dunes or ancient woodlands, are not included as developments are highly unlikely to occur in these locations.

Should You Start Early?

It is highly recommended that you engage with us at the earliest possible stage in the planning process which in the long run will help you keep costs down. From the early stages in the process, we can help ensure that your development is going to achieve the 10% target or not. This will result in the reduction of any major scale, or last-minute site plan changes to achieve the 10% biodiversity net gain goal.