Further Information on ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ 

By Ann Bartaby, GAAC Board Member

March 2022

Jay had set out a brilliant account of the benefits of encouraging Biodiversity Net Gain (or the new buzzword – BNG). I just wanted to set out a few details of how this the new legislation will work and an idea of how you might be able to make money!

The new system is in the process of being introduced and DEFRA is currently consulting on the secondary legislation that is needed to fully implement the Environment Act 2021 which introduces BNG.  The requirement is for all development to provide a minimum net gain of 10% of biodiversity units — to be maintained for a minimum of 30 years.

If you propose some development in the future, you can ‘bank’ any relevant biodiversity improvements. This covers any improvements undertaken after 30th January 2020, but such improvements need to be ‘registered’. The register will need to record what was there and what changes have been made. This will also require assessment against a ‘metric’ of the biodiversity value before and after the improvement. There will be more advice on this during this year.

If you don’t expect to need biodiversity credits for your own future development, and you have land available for the type of improvement Jay has described, without compromising aerodrome operations, you can use that land to provide ‘biodiversity units’ to developers who need to find them. The assessed average price of a biodiversity unit is £20,000. BNG must be provided with most types of new development, particularly housing. Developers can provide this on-site or off-site. 

The general feeling is that off-site will be easier and more beneficial (as a developer has also, for example, to provide open space in a residential development, which is unlikely to also be able to provide a biodiversity gain). 

There will be two options for providing off-site ‘biodiversity units’ to developers. You can do this yourself as a landowner or land manager or you can use a private broker (such as The Environment Bank). Doing it yourself will generate more cash but you will then have the responsibility for the assessment, registration, and finding and negotiating with a developer. Using a private broker will mean less cash but less administration and I would expect a more streamlined means to search out ecologists / developers etc.

The proposed system, although not yet fully defined, looks as though it could be quite bureaucratic. There should be more clarity and guidance later this year.

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