Once in force, the mandatory requirement for a 10% biodiversity net gain will have a significant impact on many new developments.
The framework for the net gain requirement is established in the new Environment Act 2021 but the detail will be filled in through regulations. The Government is currently consulting on the practical and legal implications of the new net gain requirement in England. The consultation closes on 5 April 2022. The new requirement is currently intended to take effect from November 2023 (November 2025 for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects). In the meantime, authorities are increasingly looking to existing policy to secure net gain.
Developers looking to bring forward proposals for larger strategic sites will need to come to grips with the new requirement. A strategy for delivering net gain across the whole site in respect of outline and phased schemes will be required, which sets out the key principles to inform detailed design across the site.
Where on-site enhancement is not possible, the ability to rely upon off-site enhancement could provide significant opportunities for landowners who are able to create or enhance habitats to required standards. However, the details of the biodiversity metric (currently at version 3), which takes into account factors including the distance of the off-set site from the application scheme, will influence what sites might be suitable.
In the guide to the Environment Act, Claire Fallows and Rachael Davidson tell you what you need to know about the Government’s consultation including:
- which developments might be subject to the new requirement
- what exemptions could apply
- how the new requirement will affect planning applications
- how off site net gain will work for developers and landowners
- how the biodiversity unit and credit markets will work
Opportunities will arise for landowners whose land could benefit from biodiversity improvements and who could sell biodiversity units to developers to offset losses – the consultation expects the market for biodiversity units to be worth around £135 million.