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Biodiversity Net Gain – Kent County Council

Throughout Kent, developers will be impacted by the introduction of biodiversity net gain, both now and in the future. As a result of the policy, Kent County Council will not accept any applications for planning permission without evidence of consideration to it in the form of a comprehensive BNG plan.

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Kent Acceptance of BNG

Featuring several core policies that intend to improve the state of the natural environment, the Environment Act was introduced in 2021, as was the concept of biodiversity net gain (BNG). It plays a role in enhancing the natural environment to a better state by retaining the biodiversity value of a development site and increasing it by a statutory minimum of 10% in the majority of planning projects staged throughout the country.

In the process of allowing for developers and local authorities to become better accustomed to the ins and outs of the planning policy, the UK government allowed for a two-year transition period that the local authorities were allowed to implement or disregard. Ever since the policy was initiated, Kent’s planning authorities – in conjunction with the Kent Nature Partnership (KNP) – not only chose to enforce biodiversity net gain, but also push for a higher increase of 20% as opposed to the mandated 10%, leaving developers with an even stricter requirement to meet the tightened restrictions of Kent County Council.

Progression for Biodiversity in Kent

From March 2020, a Biodiversity Strategy from the Kent Nature Partnership was made available online to display the plan of how the county would retain and enhance green areas and natural features between 2020 and 2045. Goals that the strategy hopes to achieve by 2045 include providing all ages and backgrounds with the mental and physical benefits of a thriving natural environment, growing terrestrial biodiversity, producing fresh air and water, and reversing the loss of marine biodiversity.

Unsurprisingly, biodiversity net gain (BNG) factors into the strategy multiple times, explaining the importance of BNG and also how it opens up opportunities for investment, both in terms of the contribution to the standard of the environment but also for trading biodiversity units on plots of land outside of development sites that need to offset damages to biodiversity.

From intentions to enforce biodiversity net gain from the perspective of the county’s planning authorities, and KNP’s promotion of commissioning a strategic viability assessment designed to gauge as and when a higher BNG can be applied, to a strategy that shows a clear pledge to follow all government legislation regarding advancement of Kent biodiversity and nature recovery throughout the county, the local communities are obviously intent on following the rules of biodiversity net gain to the letter.

Side Effects of BNG on Planning

Once the Environment Bill became the Environment Act following royal assent, the policies within it also became a part of UK law, including biodiversity net gain (BNG). A two-year transition period meant that it didn’t need to be mandatory straight away, but through stakeholder engagement, funding support from Natural England, and KNP’s promotion of a strategic viability assessment to raise the figure to a higher BNG, the county’s planning authorities saw it potentially viable to trigger a county-wide approach of the biodiversity net gain policy ahead of time.

A mandatory approach to BNG led to the county providing consistency across all areas, affecting how developers had to consider staging development projects and putting forward planning applications to the local planning authorities. An ecological surveyor can help with this, as they can take a biodiversity measurement based on the current state of the development site and a second measurement predicting the state of the development site once the project has been completed using information from the developer and their proposed plans.

Any deficit between the two figures will then be easy to distinguish. With it, the ecological consultant can begin to assemble mitigation measures that will counteract any issues that will negatively affect biodiversity value on the site or cause harm to ecological features such as present animal and plant habitats, as well as tweaking the development site and project to include other assets that will contribute to the aims of BNG and achieve the required increase.

Assessments for Biodiversity Net Gain

It can benefit developers to form a knowledge of biodiversity net gain (BNG), particularly as it will feature among the planning process on an ongoing basis into the future. Even the most extensive understanding of the policy, however, will not compensate for the necessity of an ecologist’s input. A biodiversity net gain plan is a trusted method of allowing for a qualified ecological surveyor to look over your development site before presenting recommendations that will meet the mandate’s guidelines.

At a time chosen by the developer, the development site will be visited by the ecological consultant and analysed at length, taking all ecological features into account. All on-site features will be registered as metrics that can then be combined into a measurement to address current biodiversity value. The secondary figure will be an estimation based on the expected outcome of the planning project and how that will leave the development site, with a deficit between the two indicating changes that need to be made to leave biodiversity in a better state.

Not only will the BNG plan offer guidance to the developer, but it will also inform the local planning authority that a BNG assessment has been undertaken, all potential ecological constraints have been identified, and any issues that will impact the development have been flagged and mitigated accordingly. It will also cover how biodiversity units / biodiversity credits will be purchased away from the site if net gains for biodiversity cannot be achieved on the development site. The local council’s planning department will then receive the BNG plan, and with it, there should be no reason to deny an application for planning permission.

Request a Quote for a BNG Survey

While other countries are still working on a potentially viable policy with the same intention as biodiversity net gain (BNG), the planning requirement already applies to Kent and the county’s planning authorities. Fortunately, our ecologists are licensed, qualified, trained and suitably experienced to assist on matters relating to BNG and planning. By reaching out to Arbtech, we can evaluate your site and project before creating a free quote for you to look over based on these details.

Get in touch today by calling us, emailing us or via our other communication options on our contact page. You will then be able to send your quote form back to us to confirm that you want us to oversee your biodiversity net gain assessment, and one of our ecological surveyors will attend your site to begin creating a BNG plan, contributing to the enhancement of Kent biodiversity, satisfying the demands of Kent’s planning authorities and the Kent Nature Partnership, and securing planning permission.

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