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Environment Act Biodiversity Net Gain

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Environment Act Biodiversity Net Gain

The Environment act 2021 seeks to improve the natural environment by improving water and air quality, preventing waste, boosting recycling and promoting the protection of species and their habitats. The Environment Act became law in November 2021 and was described as a ‘turning point for nature’ by Natural England.

A key point of this legislation was the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG), a process where developments are required to consider the impact of their work on surrounding biodiversity. For a net gain to be achieved, the biodiversity and local ecosystem should be left in a better state than it was before. 

The aim is to demonstrate how the proposed development will be of benefit to biodiversity in a measurable manner. BNG also acts as a planning condition as well as a policy requirement for planning consent, including for applications made in accordance with the provisions of a development order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

It can therefore have a significant impact during the decision making process of planning authorities when they debate whether to grant or refuse a planning application.

What is The Environment Act 2021?

The Environment Bill was passed in 2021, and BNG will soon become legally binding through the forthcoming Environment Act in November 2023. The focus of the act is to put the environment at the heart of the economy, promoting sustainability, traceability, and biodiversity protection.

The Environment Act 2021 has led to the creation of the ‘Office for Environmental Protection’ (OEP). This independent office is responsible for holding the government and public body organisations to account for the obligations set out by the Act and future legislation. 

The Environment Act 2021 aims to halt the decline in species by the end of the decade by preventing deforestation and requiring new developments to create and improve surrounding habitats. The act’s purpose is to address the issues of climate change and the loss of biodiversity by taking protective and proactive steps.

What is The Environment Act 2021 introducing?

The Environment Act 2021 delivers on various areas of biodiversity, including recycling, waste, water, air and nature. Some of the most significant environmental targets within the legislation include the following:

  • Halting the decline of nature by 2030
  • Environmental reporting and monitoring
  • Embedding environmental principles into domestic policymaking
  • The creation of the Office for Environmental Protection
  • Tackling waste crime
  • Requiring Local Authorities to tackle air quality issues
  • Focus on biodiversity net gain to ensure new developments deliver at least a 10% increase in surrounding biodiversity
  • Strengthen protection of woodland areas
  • Minimising damage water abstraction

What does the act mean for biodiversity net gain?

The aim of The Environment Act 2021 is to create an economy that focuses on the improvement of the environment. Whilst biodiversity net gain is not a new concept, there has never been a statutory requirement for until now.

Under the Environment Act 2021, projects and developments will now need to ensure that there is at least a 10% net gain to biodiversity. This net gain will be measured through biodiversity credits, biodiversity units and Biodiversity Metric 4.0). This is particularly important for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

A mitigation hierarchy must also be followed and demonstrated in order to avoid, minimise or compensate for any loss to biodiversity. If it is not possible to compensate on site, post development biodiversity offsetting will be required elsewhere through third party discussions with public authorities, landbanks, wildlife charities and land owners.

There will also be the establishment of a national land register to show biodiversity gains. Local authorities will play a role in creating this biodiversity net gain through ‘local nature recovery strategies’ across England. This will help to encourage habitat creation and enhancement in the correct places.

Conservation covenants or planning agreements will also be used as a mechanism to deliver this (this approach will be used in preparation by Natural England and Defra).

What is required from developers under The Environment Act 2021?

Developers who are planning a development project in England must now understand how The Environment Act 2021 will change each aspect of development. The legislation aims to make developers consider net gains for biodiversity from the land acquisition stage through to the design stage, ensuring long lasting positive effects.

Developers will primarily see a change in the planning stages, and local planning authorities will be expected to create new nature recovery strategies to meet the standards included with The Environment Act 2021.

Also, under the act, developers must create a pre development biodiversity net gain plan in order to show how their project will achieve the biodiversity net gain requirements. Planning permission in England will only be granted upon completion of this plan. Therefore, it is essential that you seek assistance from a biodiversity net gain consultant in order to create a detailed plan to have planning permissions granted.

How can we assist with biodiversity net gain?

Our team of biodiversity net gain consultants have helped a number of developers over the years. We have provided policy guidance for BNG on permitted development projects in England.

Please get in touch if you would like further information about the implications of the Environment Act 2021, Biodiversity Net Gain or Landscape Management Plans. We are happy to offer free CPD sessions on the Biodiversity Gain objectives and how we can help your projects achieve this.

If you would like to find out more about the services we provide, feel free to contact us using the details below.

Registered Office

23 Bark Street East, 1st Floor, Bolton

BL1 2BQ

Phone

01204 939 608

Email

info@collingtonwinter.co.uk

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