Biodiversity Net Gain – Bristol City Council

Numerous local planning authorities – including Bristol City Council – are already insisting on evidence of consideration to biodiversity net gain on planning projects, and as a result, developers will need a BNG plan or risk refused planning permission.

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BNG for Bristol Planning Projects

One of several core factors within the Environment Act 2021, biodiversity net gain (BNG) insists upon improving the quality of the environment for a predominant number of planning projects staged in England. Developed with the intention of counteracting harm to biodiversity caused by developments and other alterations to the natural world, the aim of BNG is to increase the overall state of biodiversity by a minimum of 10% post-development compared to pre-development.

Due to biodiversity net gain causing a significant change to planning going forwards, the UK government enacted a two-year transition period for local councils and developers to adjust to the policy prior to universal adherence. A large selection of local planning authorities in England, however, are already treating the BNG mandate as law, meaning that developers staging projects within these areas must operate in compliance with the policy.

Among the local authorities enforcing the rule early is Bristol City Council, and as a result of this decision, developers that are planning a development in the Bristol area of South West England will be required to consider the potential implications of the biodiversity net gain policy or risk obstacles in the process of receiving a successful planning application.

Bristol City Council’s Integration of Biodiversity Net Gain

In an effort to show evidence of adherence to the BNG policy and provide support to developers, Bristol City Council unveiled the Ecological Emergency Action Plan. Spanning between 2021 and 2025, the plan suggests an intention to come into action immediately and incorporates multiple factors including biodiversity net gain.

Produced in preparation for BNG, the Bristol City Council Ecological Emergency Action Plan explains every component of biodiversity net gain, corresponding pieces of legislation and other areas that are connected to the policy. For instance, it details how local nature recovery strategies will facilitate the delivery of BNG through mapping valuable existing habitats, identifying methods of enhancing biodiversity, and determine approaches to recover natural assets in poor condition.

BNG in Modern Planning

After original unveiling in the 2019 spring statement, the Environment Bill gained royal assent to become the Environment Act 2021 and – along with biodiversity net gain – all policies within the act became law. Barring a few exemptions, BNG will apply to all development projects across England, and failure to follow the planning policy will likely result in lengthy delays, costly penalties and/or danger to the future of the project.

Successful implementation of the BNG policy will be judged by the deficit in biodiversity value between pre-development and post-development. An ecologist would measure the two values by using a universal biodiversity metric to determine the current biodiversity value based on ecological features on the site prior to the development, before speaking with the developer to understand the plans of the project as a way of gauging the ecological value of the site once the development has been completed.

If there is a deficit between the two measurements, the ecological consultant will produce suggested next steps that will eliminate any form of deficit between the two figures. Once the biodiversity value is back to the same measurement post-development as it was pre-development, the ecologist can offer further ecological enhancements to the site that will result in a net gain of biodiversity by at least 10%.

Undertaking a Biodiversity Net Gain Assessment

Various stakeholders in the planning process would benefit from harnessing an understanding of the biodiversity net gain policy, particularly if they are operating in areas such as Bristol where BNG is already enforced. However, knowledge of BNG will not eliminate the necessity for a biodiversity net gain plan and assessment conducted by a qualified and skilled ecological surveyor.

In a physical visit to the development site, an ecologist will calculate BNG through analysing all ecological features present. They will then speak to the developer to gauge the nature and scale of the project, therefore determining the likely biodiversity value post-development. All information from the assessment, including the crucial mitigation measures that will reach the 10% net gain of biodiversity, will then be outlined within the completed BNG plan.

As the biodiversity net gain plan will house details from the assessment and recommendations from the ecologist, it can act as a vital piece of evidence in the process of gaining planning permission on the site. Once completed, a BNG plan can be passed on to the local planning authority as a supporting document during the deliberation period. With all the necessary information, your local planning officer should have no reason to deny planning consent.

Request Our BNG Services

We would always advise that clients speak to us early about booking a BNG assessment. Get in touch with Arbtech by calling us directly or filling out our quick quote form. We can then note down details of your site and project before sending across a free quote based on your specifications via email.

Assuming you are happy with the no-obligation quote, return it back to us and we can decide on a suitable time to visit your site. Utilising the help of one of our licensed ecologists, we can ensure that your project meets the rules of biodiversity net gain and satisfies the policies of Bristol City Council.

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