Proposed Enhancement to Biodiversity
Back in 2021, the Environment Bill was announced, containing a number of policies that were designed to protect and improve upon the standard of the natural environment across England. It then became the Environment Act and was brought into law, and with it came the concept of biodiversity net gain (BNG). In simple terms, BNG applies to planning projects and requires a substantial amount of developers to show consideration to the environment by increasing biodiversity value by 10%.
Over a two-year transition period, local authorities and developers alike were given leeway to grow their knowledge of the BNG policy before it became a mandatory part of planning law. At this point, Leicestershire County Council and other local councils therein could insist on the initiation of biodiversity net gain early. After the transition period ended, however, it became an enforceable factor in planning, and each local authority in Leicestershire and all other parts of England was able to insist on it where applicable.
Implementation of the New Planning Guidelines
In an effort to show complete compliance with the new policy, Leicestershire County Council opted to display a number of relevant considerations on their website, including mention of their biodiversity strategy, biodiversity action plan (BAP), accessible natural greenspace and local wildlife sites present throughout Leicestershire and Rutland, and steps toward ensuring that the biodiversity net gain metric has been applied correctly.
For any individuals involved in planning, it is imperative to establish if BNG applies to them and – if it does – integrate it within their project. Not only will they face planning restrictions from the local council and potentially even local communities, but also from legislation that applies to the entire country and any organisations and regulators that work to prevent unnecessary harm from coming to the natural world. As long as the necessary moves are made to remain in line with the policy, however, biodiversity net gain shouldn’t be a catastrophic obstacle.
Overlap Between Planning and Biodiversity Net Gain
From the point that biodiversity net gain was first announced back in 2019, it was clear that it would have a strong impact on planning as we know it. Only a few exemptions apply with BNG, and if a developer opts to overlook the requirement to operate within the policy, the consequences could range from minor to major, including delays in planning applications, fines or even a prison sentence.
The perceived biodiversity value of a development site acts as the deciding factor in how BNG will be achieved successfully. Before any development works have begun, an ecological surveyor will establish the current value and the expected value after the development, and through comparing the two figures, it will be possible to determine how the standard will be retained and improved upon by 10%.
Inspections on Present Ecological Assets
Building a knowledge of the planning policy would be worthwhile – as it will be threaded in planning for the years to come – but nothing can compensate for the input of an expert in ecology and planning. For that to happen, you would need to refer to our ecological consultancy for a BNG assessment and utilise the insight from a biodiversity net gain plan to meet the mandate.
On the day of the BNG survey, an ecological consultant will overlook all natural features in close proximity to the site and use them as a method of gauging the level of biodiversity. Development plans and any other form of documentation provided by the developer will then be used to create a vision for the level of biodiversity after the project has been completed. In order to achieve BNG, it may be applicable to suggest any number of changes, potentially involving alterations to the proposed development.
As with the reports from all the surveys we provide, a BNG plan will contain every piece of data retrieved from the assessment, images and maps of the site, recommendations for further surveys if required, and necessary mitigation and compensation measures. Once all of the suggested next steps have been taken, it will then confirm to the local authority in Leicestershire and Rutland that nature conservation measures have been accounted for, BNG has been met, and planning permission can be granted.
Arrange an Assessment Now
Among our expert team are professional ecological consultants with many years of experience in solving various problems affecting development projects. We are regarded as the country’s number one ecological consultancy, and with good reason, as our arboriculture and ecology survey services have paved the way for local planning authorities up and down the country to grant countless applications for planning permission.
Extending our services to the East Midlands has allowed us to cater to clients in Leicestershire and neighbouring counties. You can request a free quote for a biodiversity strategy and plan in your area by visiting our website, calling us or emailing us. If you confirm that you want to move forward with Arbtech, let us know and we can choose a desirable date to visit your site, create a biodiversity net gain plan, and give Leicestershire County Council everything they need to allow your development to progress.