BNG Requirements Within Surrey
One of the primary policies within the Environment Act 2021, biodiversity net gain (BNG) was introduced as a concept that would reverse degradation and prevent unnecessary harm to the natural world caused by planning projects. It works by ensuring that existing biodiversity value is retained, offering guarantees that the development results in the same standard but with an additional minimum 10% added on afterwards as a method of enhancing the state of the environment.
With such a distinct change to major development projects, the government were accommodating to local authorities and developers who were equally overwhelmed by the changes imposed by BNG. That said, even during the two-year transition period, local planning authorities maintained the ability to insist upon the inclusion of the biodiversity net gain policy in new developments. After the transition period, developers were forced to follow the policy to the letter, with Surrey County Council and all other local councils across England following suit with only minimal exceptions.
Demonstration of Adherence to the Policy
Across the Surrey County Council website, the BNG requirement is referenced numerous times alongside parameters for how it will work within local plan policy. The Surrey Wildlife Trust also include biodiversity net gain guidance, with a particular emphasis on the credit system for making a financial contribution towards off-site BNG in addition to similar environmental-friendly practices, such as carbon sequestration, green infrastructure and natural flood management (NFM).
In addition, the policy is supported by the local nature recovery strategy (LNRS) and national planning policy framework (NPPF). It is also upheld on a local level by the Surrey Nature Partnership and on a national scale by the Biodiversity Working Group. From the perspective of the average private or professional developer, the parameters surrounding mandatory biodiversity net gain may appear to be overwhelming and intimidating. It is important to remember, however, that the requirements from the local planning authorities, the local nature recovery strategies (LNRSs) and all other stakeholders can be navigated under the correct guidance.
How Biodiversity Net Gain Hinders Planning
Developers have been understandably concerned by the concept of biodiversity net gain ever since it was announced in the 2019 spring statement. A transition period gave them a potential opportunity to learn more about it before it became universally applicable – providing the local authority wasn’t already opting to enforce it ahead of time – but refusal to comply with the policy could prompt serious consequences, such as the failure to claim planning permission, fines or prison sentences.
The BNG requirement is now a component in planning that needs to be threaded into development proposals, as integrating it late into the process could pose a significant hindrance. A pre-development measurement will be taken to gauge the current biodiversity value of the site, and a post-development measurement will be determined based on the plans of the project. As the DEFRA biodiversity metric will be used for both figures, it will be consistently undertaken, and relevant changes can then be produced to achieve BNG.
Surveys and Reports on Biodiversity Value
Putting the effort in to harness a usable understanding of BNG could be beneficial for developers, especially with the policy becoming a long-term part of planning for current and new development projects. Whatever precautions are taken, however, the intervention of a qualified, trained and licensed ecological survey will still be needed. It is possible to arrange this on your development site by booking one of our team to conduct a BNG assessment and create a biodiversity net gain plan.
During a planned visit to the site, all natural assets will be reviewed and quantified in terms of value, with a particular focus on priority habitats. The data retrieved can then be used to create a picture of pre-development value, and by comparing it to the predicted post-development value, the deficit between the two results can be eliminated before a positive contribution is made to successfully achieve the necessary 10% net gains of biodiversity.
Several different outcomes can come from a BNG survey. More often than not, existing habitats will be retained and only minimal changes will be made using the mitigation hierarchy. Alternatively, on-site changes will be insufficient, calling for biodiversity units to be bought off-site, meeting the mandate elsewhere. The ecological consultants in charge of the process will then put the BNG plan together, and it can be passed on to the local planning authority as supporting documentation for planning applications.
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Our ecological surveyors are spread out all over the country as a way of catering to the needs of private and professional clients in all locations, including the county of Surrey. Not only does that mean that the nearby ecologist can offer impactful insight into the local council and the local area, but also the local nature recovery strategy (LNRS), the Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Surrey Nature Partnership.
As for ecological expertise, they carry extensive knowledge of the biodiversity working group, the DEFRA biodiversity metric, the Environment Act 2021, biodiversity opportunity areas and designated sites, and confirm that the requirement can be met on-site or off-site.
Tap into the comprehensive knowledge of our team and receive pragmatic solutions for your development site by reaching out to us online, over the phone or via email and providing us with information about your site and project. We can then send across a free quote, choose a date for the BNG assessment, and create a biodiversity net gain plan to support your development.