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Biodiversity Net Gain – City of Doncaster Council

Ever since biodiversity net gain was announced, developers in Doncaster and all over England have had to ensure adherence to the planning policy where applicable.

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Approaching the BNG Requirement Accordingly

Following the release of the Environment Act in 2021, several different policies became a part of the law, including the concept of biodiversity net gain (BNG). The new law impacted planning, focusing on a particular incentive to build on the condition of biodiversity on a site post-development compared to pre-development. For it to work, two calculations need to be taken, with the second reading maintaining the same as the first but with an additional 10% growth.

Considering the scale of the change in regard to planning, it was a fair decision for the government to grant a two-year transition period while local councils and developers formed a better understanding of the national policy. That said, the transition period coincided with each local authority’s ability to push BNG as an already applicable component in the planning system. February 2024 onwards saw the planning policy become mandatory, with the City of Doncaster Council and all other local planning authorities following suit.

Integrating the Policy Into Planning

As with all parts of England, the local authorities in Doncaster have shown an intention to follow biodiversity net gain stringently in the supplementary planning document, Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) and local plan policy. In addition to this, the City of Doncaster Council has displayed particular compliance with the policy through the creation of local habitat banks as part of the Red House Farm project. A cabinet member of sustainability and waste announced that a habitat bank would be built in a green site near Sandall Beat Wood at the location of the former Red House Farm.

Part of what made the first habitat bank in the region a realistic possibility was that the local council supported potential borrowing to fund it. Several such sites across the country assembled from available green space can then be available to restore wildlife and improve the natural environment. That way, benefits spread all over England, and any time biodiversity net gain cannot be achieved on the site, designated sites are prepared for offsetting elsewhere. It is possible to achieve BNG on-site or off-site, and under the correct guidance and following the supplementary planning documents, successfully meeting the mandate doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal.

Real-Time Initiation of Biodiversity Net Gain

Following the original announcement of the policy in 2019, BNG quickly became a part of UK planning law in 2021. While the interim period allowed for time to better understand it, the magnitude of the change would always be a shock to developers, particularly regarding how it applies to most developments in England. Failing to comply with the policy will lead to severe penalties such as fines or jail time, as well as an inability to come away with approved plans by the local authority.

Using a biodiversity metric, net gains of biodiversity can be completed for new developments. An ecological surveyor will use the metric to measure the biodiversity value of the site and the predicted state of the site after the project. Enhanced opportunities such as woodland created to increase biodiversity value can then be utilised to meet the mandate. Alternatively, this will not be possible and the ecologist will be forced to pay a biodiversity offsetting contribution fee, accounting for the deficit of biodiversity units elsewhere.

Evaluating Ecological Value

The decision to harness an understanding of biodiversity net gain and related topics would be a wise one, as it makes the process easier to follow. Whatever developers opt to grow their knowledge of, however, cannot replace the cruciality of the input from ecological consultants during the process of attending the site, conducting a BNG survey, and producing a biodiversity net gain plan full of recommendations that will satisfy the local authorities.

At a planned date and time, ecological consultants will attend the site to reflect on all ecological assets and integrate them within their calculation of current biodiversity value. Plans from the development will then make up the predicted biodiversity value, and between them, it will be possible to gauge any deficit, remove it and then increase by a minimum of 10%. Changes to the development will often suffice, but if this isn’t possible, offsetting to a significant area of lacking ecological quality may be necessary.

Similar to the ecology reports we produce following all ecological surveys we provide, a BNG plan will be assembled after the assessment and consist of further information retrieved from the inspection of the site and recommendations that will support planning applications. As soon as it is completed and all suggestions have been actioned, the plan can be given to the local planning authority, and the data within will ease any qualms regarding the BNG policy.

Contact Our Ecology Team Today

If your development site contains wildflower grassland, species-rich scrubland or involves an exciting project that could have a detrimental impact on the local environment, it is likely that biodiversity net gain will apply and a BNG plan will be needed. Emphasis must be placed on just how much BNG will feature in planning moving forward, so the majority of property and land development projects and the several such sites therein will need to show consideration to it.

All our communities of ecologists are experienced in conducting BNG assessments, working with the biodiversity metric, referring back to the local plan, supplementary planning document and other further information from the corresponding area, and either submitting enhanced opportunities such as insisting on woodland created with the purpose of growing biodiversity value or make the benefits spread across other parts of England away from Doncaster by offsetting at existing habitat banks.

Private and professional developers who require the insight and expertise of our ecology team can first contemplate whether or not to work with Arbtech by requesting a free quote for a BNG assessment on your site. Feel free to fill out a quote form on our website, email us or call us, and one of our administration team will assist you. If you need any more information, don’t hesitate to ask, and if you are happy with the quotation we send to you, let us know and we can decide on a date to undertake a survey and produce a BNG plan, giving you everything you need to appease the policy and secure a successful planning application.

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