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February 13, 2024

Biodiversity Net Gain Milestone

Biodiversity Net Gain Milestone

As of February 12, 2024, developers in England are obligated to achieve a 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) when undertaking new housing, industrial, or commercial projects. Introduced through the Environment Act, this positions England as the first country worldwide to enshrine BNG as a legal requirement, aiming to ensure that development projects contribute positively to biodiversity and natural habitats.

Embracing Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity net gain entails developers creating additional habitats to offset any ecological losses resulting from construction activities. While some housing developers have voluntarily adopted BNG practices, its integration into law marks a significant shift towards prioritising environmental sustainability in construction endeavors.

Compliance Mechanisms

Developers have various avenues to comply with the legislation, including purchasing "off-site biodiversity units" or paying third-party agencies or landowners to undertake nature conservation efforts elsewhere—a practice known as offsetting. This flexibility allows developers to fulfill their obligations while contributing to biodiversity enhancement initiatives across the country.

Government Support and Funding

To facilitate the implementation of BNG at the local level, the government has committed £10.6 million to recruit additional ecologists. This investment aims to bolster the capacity of local planning authorities in integrating biodiversity net gain requirements into development projects, thereby fostering the creation of new wildlife habitats alongside urban developments.

Roll-Out and Measurement

Initially applicable to residential developments with ten or more dwellings, BNG requirements will extend to smaller housing sites from April 2, 2024. Additionally, plans are underway to introduce BNG for nationally significant infrastructure projects by late 2025. Biodiversity net gain will be quantified using a statutory metric tool that assesses factors such as habitat size, quality, location, and type.

Industry and Environmental Responses

Industry stakeholders, including housing developers and environmental organisations, have welcomed the move towards mandatory BNG. Berkeley Group, a leading housing developer, lauds the initiative for reintegrating nature into urban landscapes and emphasises the need for collaborative efforts to maximise its benefits.

Conclusion

The enforcement of biodiversity net gain as a legal requirement signifies England's unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. As developers navigate this new regulatory landscape, collaboration between industry, government, and environmental stakeholders will be crucial in realising the full potential of BNG to create thriving ecosystems alongside human habitation.

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