Consideration for BNG Across the Wirral
After the Environment Act was formally introduced into UK legislation in November 2021, the concept of biodiversity net gain (BNG) has stood as a pivotal component in most of the planning projects undertaken all over the country. The primary purpose of BNG was to reverse the effects of developments on the natural world by ensuring that assets that contribute to positive standards of biodiversity undergo a minimum net gain of 10%. In simple terms, it acts as a compromise between protecting the natural environment and allowing projects to continue as planned.
A two-year transition period initiated by the government enabled developers and local councils to adjust to the planning policy in a sensible and calculated manner. But despite this, the planning departments of local councils all over England have already begun to insist on adherence to BNG, with an insistence that planning applications will not be reviewed without evidence of the policy and a better state of biodiversity across a development integrated within the development. An example of the many councils that are already following the rules of biodiversity net gain and other related new duties is Wirral Council in Merseyside, and as the council recognises cause for enforcing a 10% net gain on biodiversity, developers will be required to meet the criteria or hazard a rejected planning application.
Wirral Council’s Biodiversity Net Gain Policies
Among many other policies that contribute to the conservation, preservation and protection of the local environment in the Wirral, the Wirral Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy outlines how biodiversity net gain would be implemented into new developments in the borough with few exceptions and the overall planning system as a whole. It also highlights other concerns regarding environment and climate emergency and climate change, environmental sites of national, European and international significance and sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), lowland heaths and open spaces, the need to provide natural flood defences, tree canopy cover and tree planting, and anything else that affects Wirral locations.
The concept of biodiversity net gain features multiple times in the Wirral local plan, including as one of three primary objectives to improve biodiversity alongside exercises to retain current ecological resources and protect the existing ecological network in the area. It is also described as a policy that, for the Wirral area specifically, will: “ensure that future growth – of development, of local communities, and of visitor numbers – respect the ecosystems that underpin prosperity and wellbeing in Wirral, and to support the delivery of locally-appropriate BNG”.
How BNG Affects Planning
Originally, biodiversity net gain was announced as a preliminary concept in the 2019 spring statement. It eventually became a part of the law in England as part of the Act. Ignoring only a few listed exemptions, the BNG policy will apply to the majority of development projects, and anyone ignoring the rules of biodiversity net gain will face penalties that could cause serious disruption to their project.
During a visit to a development site, an ecologist will gauge the current biodiversity value using a biodiversity metric set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Through building a knowledge of the development plan and how the site will look once completed, the ecologist will be able to see a change in biodiversity pre-development compared to post-development. The gap between the two measurements will determine if the project achieves the BNG policy. If the project will not meet the biodiversity net gain requirement, the ecologist will use their expertise to determine potential next steps that would reach the 10% increase in rich biodiversity.
Integrating Biodiversity Net Gain Into a Development
Harnessing an understanding of biodiversity net gain and how it will likely affect planning would be advantageous to developers, particularly as the planning policy will become mandatory once the transition period is complete. As previously mentioned, an ecological consultant will conduct an assessment on a development site before producing a biodiversity net gain plan that will detail recommended changes and highlight priority constraints on an interactive map or ideas board to ensure that rules of the policy are met.
More specifically, a BNG assessment would involve an ecologist visiting the development site, carrying out a physical inspection, taking pre-development and post-development biodiversity measurements, and looking for effective methods of enhancing biodiversity during or following the development project, supporting wildlife habitats, contributing to a more resilient borough, and satisfying the council’s declaration to protect biodiversity. Not only will this work towards BNG, but also remove potential costly delays and penalties further down the line.
Another benefit to a biodiversity net gain assessment is that – when undertaken by highly-regarded ecological consultancies such as Arbtech – local planning authorities trust the resulting BNG plan as reliable and dependable evidence that will support an application for planning permission. We can also take into consideration the guidance provided by the local nature recovery strategy (LNRS), Natural England and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, using it to assist with navigating your development through acceptable land management with a view to achieving the resulting biodiversity goals.
Plan a BNG Appraisal with Arbtech
For anyone developing land in the Wirral area, it would be strongly advisable to speak to us about our biodiversity net gain appraisals and plans, and we can work with you to simplify the process of addressing the many functions of the net gain strategy, achieving the aims of the planning policy, and enhancing biodiversity on your site. For more reason to rely on us for your BNG needs, simply check out all the feedback provided by our past and present clients.
By getting in touch immediately, you can choose a suitable time for one of our trained, qualified and licensed ecologists to attend your site. Then, based on the specifications of the site and project, the ecological surveyor can work out the best approach to successfully meet the requirements of both the mandate and the council’s declaration to promote varied and good biodiversity.
Either call us on the number at the top of this page, fill out our quick quote form or visit our contact page, provide us with extensive details of your site and project, and we will send you a free quote for you to deliberate over. All you need to do is send the quote back to us, and we will be able to schedule a time for a visit and make the first step in supporting your application for planning consent.