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Biodiversity Net Gain – Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Across all of Greater Manchester and the City of Manchester, biodiversity net gain will affect development projects, with the policy strictly governed by both the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Manchester City council. In order to follow it accordingly, a BNG plan from our team of ecologists will be vital.

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Application of BNG Throughout Manchester

In 2021, the Environment Act was brought into power, bringing with it several policies designed to contribute to the enhancement of the natural environment. Biodiversity net gain (BNG) was one of the policies, focusing on a high-level commitment to improving the biodiversity value of development sites in planning projects by a measurably better state, equating to a minimum 10% increase.

Prior to November 2023, local authorities were given control over whether or not BNG would be enforced in the corresponding areas. After this point, it would become a mandatory consideration across all developments, with only minimal exemptions. The local councils of cities are often more stringent over policies relating to the retention and enhancement of green areas, as they will be more limited than predominantly rural areas. Manchester is no different, with both the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and all local planning authorities within such as Manchester City Council rigorously pushing the requirements of biodiversity net gain.

Efforts to Optimise Manchester Biodiversity

A Biodiversity Strategy explained how Manchester would pragmatically approach nature recovery between 2022 and 2030. Sections within the strategy included parts on the current standard of nature throughout Greater Manchester and the city region, policies that were created to support nature, priorities and objectives that will count towards conserving, preserving and protecting nature, and an action plan that details how goals will be achieved successfully.

After featuring within an overview of the Environment Act, biodiversity net gain is listed multiple times in a section dedicated to managing biodiversity. In this section, for example, it is named as a measure for protecting and enhancing biodiversity, as a solution to issues relating to nature, as a consideration for trading biodiversity units and offsetting biodiversity value off-site, and as a new structure and framework for sustainable development.

Mentioned multiple times across the strategy, BNG serves as a method of retaining and enhancing ecological features and highly valuable natural areas. As such, it comes as no surprise to see it cited as one of the primary methods of boosting the environmental quality of Greater Manchester and reversing the effects of climate change, particularly considering the vital role it plays in inevitable development projects.

BNG’s Impact on Development

Following royal assent, the Environment Bill turned into the forthcoming Environment Act, making all applicable policies law. It included biodiversity net gain, but as it would have an undeniable impact on new building and land development projects and the UK’s approach to development as a whole, a two-year transition period was permitted, allowing planning departments within local councils an opportunity to delay rolling out the planning policy until November 2023.

From November 2023, BNG was brought forward as a mandated law that would impact nearly all planning projects. An ecologist can, however, assist developers with biodiversity net gain guidance and advice to guarantee that all requirements of the policy are adhered to. In short, the process will involve calculating the current biodiversity value on the development site and predicting the expected biodiversity value once the development has concluded.

The two measurements will be judged using the same metrics, and once the ecological consultant is satisfied with the data, the pre-development and post-development scores can then be compared to see what needs to be done as part of retaining valuable assets, minimising loss of biodiversity, and increasing appropriate natural habitat in a way that leaves biodiversity in a better state compared to before the planning project was carried out.

Inspections to Satisfy Biodiversity Net Gain

As biodiversity net gain is an approach to development that will feature heavily in current and future projects, it would be wrong to say that developers shouldn’t actively look to build a knowledge on the subject. That said, nothing will be enough to adequately replace the need for an ecological surveyor attending the development site, looking over all plans, undertaking an assessment, and producing a biodiversity net gain plan.

On the day of a biodiversity net gain survey, the ecologist will inspect all of the site, creating a list of all ecological features that would contribute to overall biodiversity value. By speaking to the developer and reading across information about the planning project, it will be possible to put together a second metric for the biodiversity value of the site after the works are complete. The gap between the two measurements can then display how much needs to be altered to offset the current loss before adding on the remaining BNG of 10%.

Mitigation measures will be initiated to ensure that any rare or valuable ecological assets such as protected species of animals and plants aren’t unnecessarily disturbed. The ecological consultant will be seeking restoration on-site before looking to build on it by an extra 10%. Methods of increasing biodiversity value involve appropriate natural habitat creation, but if this isn’t possible, biodiversity net gain will need to be delivered off-site by purchasing biodiversity credits and spending them on other sites where it is more viable to benefit the natural environment.

Containing a comprehensive summary of information from the survey, the BNG plan will detail the site at length, list biodiversity measurements and explain what needs to be done to achieve the mandate, including if biodiversity units need to be purchased due to a lack of on-site options. The plan will then be passed on to the local planning authority, and due to all areas being covered within the plan, the developer should see no problem in meeting the biodiversity net gain requirements and gaining planning permission.

Contact our Team of Ecological Experts

The ecology team at Arbtech boasts a selection of ecologists with the licensing, qualifications, training and experience to undertake assessments on biodiversity net gain and produce a plan that will tick all of the boxes of your local planning authority and contribute to a successful planning application. We proudly cater to all areas, including the various towns and cities throughout Greater Manchester and the Manchester city region.

For an accurate evaluation of a survey on your specific planning project and development site, contact us via phone, email or the quote form on this page, and you will receive a free quote from our team to look over. Providing you are suitably comfortable with the quote, send it back to confirm that you wish to go ahead with us, and we will choose an ideal time to attend your site, address the concerns of your local planning authority, and begin putting together a biodiversity net gain plan.

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