Biodiversity Net Gain – Milton Keynes City Council

If biodiversity net gain applies to your development in Milton Keynes, you will need a BNG plan from Arbtech to successfully meet the parameters of the planning policy and your local planning authority.

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Strategy to Improve the Environment

A planning policy brought in with the intention of improving the standard of the environment, biodiversity net gain (BNG) was one of several components of the Environment Bill before it achieved royal assent and became the Environment Act. The BNG policy will affect the majority of development proposals moving forward, and it will involve a requirement to enhance the environmental quality post-development compared to pre-development, improving biodiversity by 10% or more.

Even once the national policy became a part of the law, the government initiated a two-year transition period, giving both local authorities and developers a chance to understand the rules of BNG prior to integrating it within planning projects. During this point, all of England’s local planning authorities had the option to insist upon the application of BNG. The transition period ended in February 2024, and from that point onwards, all local councils including Milton Keynes City Council were forced to ensure that all applicable developments show consideration to it.

References to the Policy in Relevant Plans and Strategies

Due to the biodiversity net gain policy standing as an active part of planning law, it features heavily in relevant documents provided by Milton Keynes City Council and corresponding parties such as the Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership. In the latest version of the biodiversity supplementary planning document, local nature matters affecting Milton Keynes City Council and wider Buckinghamshire Council or even neighbouring Warwickshire County Council are detailed at length, all in line with the local nature recovery strategy (LNRS), the local plan and national planning policy.

The document itself directly offers further information on BNG, helped by sections on incorporating biodiversity into development, expanding the level of biodiversity in development and other factors that correspond with the policy. From supplementary planning documents and local plans on the parameters surrounding BNG to the local authorities’ ever-developing policy to ensure that efforts to combat climate change are followed correctly, such a selection of guidance could be seen as helpful or intimidating in the eyes of developers. It is possible, however, to find success in meeting the BNG requirement simply by abiding by the correct guidance.

The Role of BNG in Development

Once the prospect of achieving net biodiversity gain was unveiled in the 2019 spring statement, it was clear that it would change the way we look at planning. As for developers who were opposed to the policy, simply ignoring its existence wasn’t an option either, as failure to show adequate consideration to BNG would likely see a delay to their application for planning permission and the possibility of serious penalties such as an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence.

In order to prevent biodiversity losses and ensure the necessary 10% increase, a biodiversity value of the current development site would be recorded and a second one would be predicted based on the development plans. A universal biodiversity metric will be used to ensure consistency throughout the process, and the deficit between the two figures can then be suitably eliminated by a qualified ecological consultant.

More often than not, the ecologist in charge of the assessment will be able to meet the BNG requirement on the site. If, however, this is not possible, the alternative option would be to provide biodiversity offsets on predetermined offset sites. The quantity of biodiversity units will already be established from the survey, meaning that the developer would need to make a financial contribution to achieve BNG off-site due to not being able to on-site.

Inspection Focused on Biodiversity

As a developer or homeowner looking to stage a development project, learning more about biodiversity net gain to harness a greater understanding of the planning policy would be beneficial. That said, even the most comprehensive understanding of BNG simply will not compensate for the input of an ecological surveyor from our team. The recommended first step would be to refer to a biodiversity net gain plan conducted based on your development site.

All of the important habitats, priority species and ecological features from the site will be recorded during a BNG survey, and using this information, the existing biodiversity value will be determined. If changes to the development plans aren’t enough to prevent biodiversity loss or harm priority habitats, the mitigation hierarchy will be used to find suitable solutions.

Depending on the deficit between the pre-development and post-development figures, new habitats may need to be created to meet the mandate, or if nothing will suffice, offsetting elsewhere will be required. A biodiversity net gain plan can then be produced and passed on to the local authority. Due to its all-encompassing nature, it should contain the necessary information to meet the BNG mandate and support planning applications.

Discuss Your Options with Our Team

Throughout Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, our team of ecological surveyors is available for evaluating the natural environment, utilising the biodiversity metric from DEFRA, and initiating biodiversity net gain on-site or off-site as required. We also operate under the guidance of the local plan, biodiversity supplementary planning document, Natural England and CIEEM to ensure that the services we provide are as accurate and effective as possible.

Prior to confirming that you wish to move forward with Arbtech to support your endeavour in satisfying the BNG requirement, speak to our team and we will send you a free quote based on your details. Shortly after receiving information about your site and project over the phone, via email or on our website, we can put together a quote for a BNG assessment on your site and the corresponding BNG plan, and if you’re happy with it, we can choose a date to assist you.

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