The Introduction of BNG in Cheshire West and Chester
As of November 2021, biodiversity net gain (BNG) has been a planning policy within UK law as part of the Environment Act. Following decades of harm caused to the environment as a result of developments, BNG will ensure that the state of biodiversity is enhanced by at least 10% following completion of all planning projects moving forward.
During a two-year transition period, both local councils and developers across England are given an opportunity to become more knowledgeable about biodiversity net gain before it becomes a strict planning policy for any and all developments. However, as local planning authorities are within their right to mandate the policy at any time within those two years, many already are, including Cheshire West and Chester Council in the North West of England.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Biodiversity Net Gain Policies
Within a set of guidelines, Cheshire West and Chester Council outlined what needs to be submitted for any planning applications in the region. Included are minimum national requirements, requirements that are specific to the local area, and the recent addition of biodiversity net gain that will insist on a 10% increase on the site post-development compared to pre-development.
All developers will also receive an informative note and checklist to ensure that they reach the goals of mandatory biodiversity net gain. As well as a list of all necessary considerations to achieve BNG, the guidance also incorporates information on biodiversity net gain such as what it is, how it can be demonstrated on applications for a planning condition, details of local ecological networks and how this could correspond to net gain calculations on the site, and planning policies and pieces of legislation that are relevant to BNG.
During a consultation, stakeholders in planning and safeguarding the environment were able to put forward their queries or concerns over implementing biodiversity net gain in the Cheshire West and Chester area. In the consultation, Ross Harding – Planning & Ecology Officer at Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) – made a statement. He stated that: “BNG should be applicable to all development under the TCPA and all Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects“. He then said that: “CWT would also like additional commitment from CWaC to ensure BNG is also applied to all significant permitted developments and those development sites which initially have little measurable biodiversity value.”
Harding also claimed that the net gain increase should be higher, saying: “CWT welcome a mandatory requirement for a minimum of 10% BNG as a first step but, in the context of the ecological crisis, believe that development must go beyond this minimum and endeavour to deliver at least 20% BNG.” He then claimed that Cambridgeshire County Council, Hertfordshire County Council and Wirral Council have all made efforts to do this.
In a closing statement, Harding insisted on biodiversity net gain being ‘subject to regular review‘ to ensure best practice and the most effective utilisation of the policy. As BNG is in its infancy, changes are expected over the current two-year transition period.
BNG in Current and Future Planning
Over a few short years, biodiversity net gain has gone from being a mere concept announced by the government in the 2019 spring statement to acting as one of several core elements of the Environmental Bill 2021 that will work to retain and improve upon the condition of the country’s many natural features. For all current and future planning projects in England bar minimal exceptions, implementation of BNG will be mandatory, and all developers will need to adhere to the rules or face potentially costly and lengthy delays.
Prior to a development, a measurement will be made to gauge biodiversity value on the site using a universal metric that incorporates all ecological features. Using the plans of the project, a second measurement will be made to predict the final biodiversity value on the site. Through comparing the two measurements, an ecologist can determine what changes need to be made to reach or exceed a 10% net gain of biodiversity on the site.
Biodiversity Net Gain Appraisal and Plan
Building an understanding of the BNG requirement may be difficult, particularly as it has become a part of modern planning so quickly. An important component in the process is arranging for a licensed ecologist to visit your site so they can carry out a BNG assessment and use their findings to develop a biodiversity net gain plan upon completion of a biodiversity net gain appraisal.
With the help of our ecologists, you can save money on compensatory measures by increasing biodiversity value on your site. During a biodiversity net gain assessment, an ecological consultant will assess the site and development project to determine the most suitable course of action to meet the requirements of the policy. At this point, the ecologist will list all ecological features lost and gained as a result of the planning project, as well as changes that could be made to hit or exceed the 10% biodiversity enhancement.
It also proves to the local planning authority that you have followed the correct procedure for operating within the rules of the policy, and between your clear intentions and evidence of the requirement being met within a BNG plan, the planning department of your local council will be left with no reason to reject an application for planning consent.
Book a BNG Assessment with Arbtech
To satisfy Cheshire West and Chester Council and the strict rules of the planning requirement, it would be advisable to book in a biodiversity net gain plan and assessment with Arbtech today. Through getting in early, you can guarantee a date and time for us to come to your site and undertake the biodiversity net gain appraisal before providing you with a comprehensive plan to meet the net gain of biodiversity on your site.
Speak to one of our team today by calling the number above or filling out our quick quote form, and one of our helpful team will be able to talk you through the process and create a free quote that is bespoke to your site and project. We can then arrange a time to visit your site for a biodiversity net gain appraisal and ensure that you and your development meet the BNG requirement.