The UK government announced a new requirement for developers to deliver a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) of 10% for all major building projects, improving the overall status of natural habitats and ecosystems across new housing, industrial or commercial developments.
Introduced in the UK’s 2021 Environment Act, Biodiversity Net Gain aims to create and improve natural habitats, in order to ensure that development has a measurably positive impact on biodiversity, compared to the status prior to the development. The BNG system is based on a calculation of “biodiversity units,” that consider factors including size, quality, location, and type of habitat, and then calculates how many biodiversity units are needed to provide a BNG of at least 10%.
According to a government statement announcing the new rules, the move makes the UK the first country in the world to introduce a mandatory BNG requirement, and will help deliver the government’s commitment to halt species decline by 2030.
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.”
The new rules prioritize on-site BNG, with developers to create new habitats, or enhance existing ones on the development site, or if that is not possible, to invest in nature sites elsewhere through off-site biodiversity units bought from landowners via a private market. As a “last resort,” the new rules allow BNG to be achieved through the purchase of statutory biodiversity credits from the government, which will be reinvested in habitat projects across the UK.
The rules also include long-term habitat management requirements, with significant on-site and all off-site gains needing a legal agreement with a responsible body or local authority to monitor the habitat improvements 30 years.
The BNG requirement will apply to new developments, with implementation for small sites of 1-9 dwellings beginning in April 2024, and for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects expected in late 2025.
“Biodiversity Net Gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live.”