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New rules have come into effect that will require housing developers to demonstrate biodiversity gains of their schemes as part of the planning process.
Biodiversity Net Gain rules will require developers in England to both minimise their impact on nature, and to create new habitats or enhance existing ones on the development site as part of their proposals. Where this is not possible, developers can purchase off-site biodiversity units via a private market. Overall, developers will be legally required to show a minimum 10% improvement to biodiversity under the new rules.
As part of the implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain rules, Local Planning Authorities in England will receive an additional £10.6 million to recruit and expand ecologist teams and increase capacity to create new wildlife-rich habitats alongside developments.
Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:
“This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”
Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, said:
“If we are to halt and reverse the decline of wildlife in line with our ambitious national targets then it will be vital to ensure that new habitats are created to compensate those being lost to developments.
“Biodiversity Net Gain is a key moment on our path to halting the decline of nature, enabling developers to make a positive contribution through creating new habitats, increasing access to green spaces, and building healthy and resilient places for people to live and work.
“Many developers are already using Biodiversity Net Gain in new developments and recognising the benefits for people and nature.”
Local authorities have a range of tools to help them enforce Biodiversity Net Gain, while the Environment Act 2021 includes mechanisms to ensure that commitments through conservation covenants are adhered to. Off-site projects will be tracked and monitored through a digital register maintained by Natural England.
Biodiversity Net Gain for small sites will still be applicable from April 2024, and implementation for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects remains planned for 2025. The rules form part of government measures to meet its 2030 target for halting species decline.