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Biodiversity Net Gain – Cornwall Council

During the majority of development projects in Cornwall, developers will need a BNG plan as evidence to the local council that an ecologist has acknowledged consideration of the planning policy and the expected enhancement of the natural environment.

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BNG’s Impact on Cornwall Development Projects

An effort to reverse the negative impact both minor developments and major developments have had on the natural environment, biodiversity net gain (BNG) was unveiled in the Environment Act 2021 as one of several key policies. BNG supports ecological enhancement in the creation of new additions to the built environment by mandating a net gain increase of biodiversity by a minimum of 10% post-development compared to pre-development to a better state for a minimum period of at least 30 years.

While local authorities and developers have been gifted a two-year transition period to become better accustomed to the implementation of BNG before it becomes mandatory, many of the planning departments within local councils have opted to begin enforcing biodiversity net gain early, particularly considering the concern of the UK becoming one of the most nature depleted countries. Due to the decision from Cornwall Council to join the list of authorities following the rules of BNG ahead of time, most minor development and major development projects in the Cornwall area will need to fall in line with the policy.

Biodiversity Net Gain in Cornwall Council Policies

Councils across Cornwall and other local authorities that have indicated an intention to roll out the BNG policy across towns and cities within their jurisdiction have produced documents that explain what biodiversity net gain is and how it will work in practice. Specifically looking at Cornwall, the local council produced the Cornwall Planning for Biodiversity Guide, with sections dedicated to planning policies, legislation, standards, local biodiversity, principles, frequently asked questions and specific case studies.

Primarily, the purpose behind the guide is to offer support on ‘how applicants can provide enhancement for the environment within sites, allowing them to deliver at least 10% biodiversity net gain for major applications for Cornwall‘. It also details how Cornwall Council hold a 20-year vision for ecological enhancement and growth in the county through the introduction and strict implementation of the BNG policy.

BNG in Current and Future Planning

The Environment Bill became the Environment Act after gaining royal assent in 2021. As a result, all policies within the Environment Act 2021 became law, including biodiversity net gain. Now and in the future, BNG is applicable to the majority of planning projects, with only a handful of exceptions, and local planning authorities will demand evidence of the implementation of the policy or refuse the developer’s application for planning permission.

Without it, minor and major planning applications may not even be considered, and if the policy is ignored and the development moves ahead without integration of BNG, the developer will be met with penalties and the project will suffer delays and potential collapse. An ecologist will oversee adherence to the rule by calculating the deficit in biodiversity value with a predetermined biodiversity metric before the development compared to after the development.

In order to do this, the ecological surveyor will be required to measure the existing biodiversity value on the site by recording all ecological features present using a universal biodiversity metric. Then, through speaking at length about the project with the developer and retrieving the necessary further information, they will determine the likely biodiversity value after the development is complete. Based on the two measurements, the ecologist will be able to distinguish whether or not a deficit exists between the two figures, and if it does, produce effective measures of eliminating the deficit before building on it by a minimum biodiversity net gain of 10%.

On-Site Biodiversity Net Gain Assessments

From the perspective of a developer, understanding the concept of biodiversity net gain can be helpful in the process of meeting the rules of the mandate. With or without prior knowledge of BNG, a registered ecological consultant will be needed to carry out an assessment of the development site and produce a biodiversity net gain plan to dictate appropriate next steps to the local planning authority for your minor or major applications for planning permission.

After choosing a suitable date and time to visit the site, an ecologist will analyse all areas and index ecological features present to calculate biodiversity value. Both their findings from the visual inspection and recommendations to reach a 10% minimum increase of biodiversity will be outlined in the BNG plan, offering insight to the local council, any other stakeholders in the development such as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and relevant plans that impact the planning process such as the national planning policy framework (NPPF) and the wider green infrastructure network.

With all vital information included such as the necessary compensation using the mitigation hierarchy, the biodiversity net gain plan should contain everything needed to satisfy your local planning authority. Upon completion, the BNG plan can be forwarded to the planning department of your local council, full of the components capable of easing any qualms, reaching the improved natural capital on-site or off-site, initating the necessary changes such as the addition of bat and bird boxes to support natural habitats, making up any deficit to biodiversity units, and strengthening your overall application for a planning condition.

Get in Touch About Our BNG Services

Any time a client speaks to us about organising a biodiversity net gain assessment and plan, we work to arrange a site visit as soon as possible, particularly as it will avoid any delays to your project. For an accurate quote, provide our team with as much detail as possible in regard to your site and project. We will then send across a free quote, and if you are happy with it, send it back and we will decide a suitable time to visit your site.

We are experts in biodiversity gain after remaining updated on the policy, from the original announcement to the current initiation in decisions to grant or deny planning consent and safeguard the natural world. At Arbtech, you can get in touch by calling our team directly or filling out a quick quote form online. Speak to us today for a no-obligation quote, and we will be able to judge the necessary next steps to support the natural environment using the mitigation hierarchy for the specifications of your development site and the purpose of your project, and help you to meet the BNG requirements of Cornwall Council for the required period of 30 years.

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