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Bio diversity net gain JG

Biodiversity Net Gain

Turning regulation into opportunity.

Last month, the UK Government outlined new requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), as part of the Environment Act 2021, for development projects in England. These new rules aim to ensure that developments leave a positive impact on their habitats, rather than causing damage.

The new requirements, effective from the 12th of February – with small sites having an extended transition period till the 2nd of April - are not meant to be seen as another hurdle but as an opportunity for positive environmental change.

What do the regulations mean for developers?

Under the new requirements, developers will have to deliver a “net gain” in biodiversity, meaning the ecological value of the site must be higher at completion than when work started, ensuring a positive contribution to the environment.

Measures such as habitat creation, restoration, and enhancement can achieve the gains required. While on-site delivery will remain the preferred approach, situations will arise where they have to be delivered off-site, through the use of BNG Land Banks or BNG Credits.

There are three main ways to achieve a BNG: through on-site delivery, Land Banks and credits.

When presenting your development, it is critical that your approach to BNG aligns with the Local Authority’s environmental ambitions and that your chosen measures are perceived in the right way.

Whilst BNG allows for offsetting, it should be seen as a last resort and relying solely on it can diminish the likelihood of gaining planning consent. Local planning authorities will inevitably look more positively at projects creating on-site gains, often being sceptical of offsetting due to the uncertainties around long-term success and the loss of local environmental benefits.

The political opportunity

BNG requirements will inevitably increase the costs and viability of sites for developers. The measures will add to initial project costs, with on-site habitat creation requiring land and resources, as well as the need for new skills and knowledge.

Not only does BNG address sustainability priorities, but it can also align with other priorities of the council, so getting the messaging right is essential. At DevComms, we understand how best to position BNG and achieve the best result for your development.

There is a clear opportunity for savvy developers to differentiate their schemes from competitors vying for a local plan allocation or planning consent.

Proactive planning, resource allocation, and partnerships will be key to overcoming the BNG hurdle and maximising the positive opportunity of compliance with the new regulations.

The new rules bring with them an opportunity to frame BNG as a positive step towards environmental responsibility and a win for both developers and the environment. The idea of open green space and community gardens will be one that residents and councillors will like.

Positioning your pitch to local authority policies and priorities is critical. Understanding the interests of the stakeholders around your site equally so.

At DevComms, we help with tailoring your messaging to give your scheme the best chance of landing in a favourable position. We create trust and a collaborative environment, bringing stakeholders on board at the earliest opportunity and increasing the chances of a successful locally determined outcome.

If you would like to discuss how DevComms can help you position your scheme with the local authority, don't hesitate to get in touch with the DevComms Midlands office.

By Jake Gilbert

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