todayJanuary 11, 2023
Developers will be required to demonstrate that they will deliver a minimum 10% net gain from the pre-development bio-diversity values of new development sites through either on-site measures, off-site delivery or by utilising an emerging BNG ‘unit’ market.
The legislative framework for imposing the 10% requirement can be found in the Environment Act 2021, however the relevant provisions will not become effective until the expiry of a ‘transitional period’ – currently expected to be November 2023. Following the expiry of the transition period BNG will be a mandatory requirement for all Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and therefore developers.
However, some LPAs have already begun rolling out BNG delivery on certain developments in advance of the transition period.
So, what steps should housebuilders and developers be taking over the next 11 months to prepare?
The Natural England Biodiversity Matrix will provide the formula for calculating existing and required levels of biodiversity and be the basis on which BNG requirements for individual developments are assessed.
Review the Biodiversity Matrix against existing ‘pipeline’ sites and/or prospective sites
This will offer some insight into what a 10% ‘net gain’ will look like on proposed development projects. Developers should also consider whether sites for which planning applications will be submitted post-November 2023 will fall within the administrative boundaries of an LPA that is already imposing BNG, and what this will mean for the proposals and viability of their developments.
Developers should also re-assess their contractual obligations to maximise value in light of the cost implications of on-site vs. off-site BNG options, with off-site options (particularly BNG ‘units’) likely to be more expensive.
Some LPAs are already providing guidance and examples of BNG planning conditions and S.106 obligations. Examples of these include:
Another key feature of the BNG regime is that the gain and associated management must be in place for 30 years. Developers need to be thinking about what changes they will need to make to their estate management services if their management companies will now be required to maintain specially created ecological habitats long after sales have completed.
Review and understand the current range of ‘off-site’ delivery measures available
While this could present great opportunities for some landowners, for developers it is likely to add to the complexity and cost of delivering a development. However, some developers are already becoming accustomed to delivering off-site land improvements (including habitat enhancement) and so there are possible opportunities for developers to utilise existing land banks, to create excess biodiversity units as off-site gains for other developments.
Written by: Jackie De Burca
todayFebruary 13, 2024
todayFebruary 13, 2024