Biodiversity Net Gain – South Cambridgeshire Council

In order to satisfy South Cambridgeshire Council – a local authority that already require evidence of consideration to biodiversity net gain on development projects – developers will need a BNG plan from a licensed ecologist.

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South Cambridgeshire Ecology and Biodiversity

Ever since the planning policy was brought in under the umbrella of the Environment Act in November 2021, biodiversity net gain (BNG) has stood as an effective effort by the government to preserve the natural state of the country during a large percentage of development projects staged in England. It works by encouraging developers to maintain a consideration for the environment during planning projects by increasing the standard of biodiversity on the site by at least 10%

With an ongoing two-year transition period in place, both developers and local authorities are given time to become adjusted to the planning policy before it is mandatory throughout England. Despite that, a large selection of planning departments within local councils are already mandating BNG, and without any evidence that rules of the policy have been followed, applications for planning permission will not even reach the deliberation stage.

Among the many local councils already following the rules of biodiversity net gain is South Cambridgeshire Council, and the fact that they are insisting on evidence of adherence to the policy means that any developers in South Cambridgeshire and potentially other sections of the East of England region will need to ensure that they are operating within the BNG requirement if it applies to their development.

References to Biodiversity in South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Policies

Published in 2021, the Doubling Nature Strategy gave South Cambridgeshire District Council an opportunity to explain how they were intending on preserving and enhancing environmental assets in the area. As well as numerous other incentives to improve the state of biodiversity in South Cambridgeshire, the concept of biodiversity net gain is explained in detail. It also features information in regards to how it will be implemented within certain environmental targets such as efforts to retain animal habitats within the local ecological network.

An interesting factor that developers should be made aware of is that the strategy also states that, instead of the 10% net gain of biodiversity set by the government, South Cambridgeshire Council claim that all developers should ‘aspire to achieve 20% biodiversity net gain through development’. In some circumstances, local authorities across England have requested a higher increase to biodiversity, particularly if the specific area is in a greater need of ecological enhancement.

BNG’s Influence on Developments

First announced in the 2019 spring statement, biodiversity net gain eventually formed part of the Environment Act 2021. Aside from minimal exemptions, the BNG policy will be applicable to a wide number of developments, with the potential consequences of disregarding it including inconvenient delays, costly penalties and complete breakdown of the planning project.

A universal biodiversity metric developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is utilised by an ecologist during a site visit as a method of indexing all present ecological features and accurately measuring the ecological value of the site. Biodiversity value and the overall quantity of changes needed to increase the standard of the environment will be determined by the current state of the development site and the future state of the development based on the developer’s plans.

Measurements from pre-development and post-development will then be compared to gauge what is needed to reach the minimum 20% net gain of biodiversity. If the plans of the project will meet or exceed the 20% increase, the ecologist will either build on the increase to ensure that it doesn’t fall short by the finest of margins or leave the plans as they are due to meet the mandate. If, however, the plans are likely to fall short of the net gain increase, the ecologist will provide impactful next steps that will successfully achieve BNG.

Inspecting Biodiversity on a Development Site

Even with the two-year transition period, developers and local planning authorities don’t have much time to adjust to the introduction of biodiversity net gain. Whether you grasp an understanding of BNG or not, however, you will still need advice and insight from a licensed ecological consultant in the form of a biodiversity net gain plan following a BNG assessment on your development site.

On the day of a biodiversity net gain assessment, the ecologist in charge of the survey will inspect all areas of the site to record all ecological features, contributing to the current overall biodiversity measurement. It will also be used as an opportunity to determine potential solutions to increase biodiversity value, both in terms of minor, cost-effective changes and major, significant alterations.

The completed BNG plan will contain all information from the survey, project and site including details about the plot of land, information about changes caused by the proposed development, and recommended measures that will meet the requirements of the planning policy. Local planning authorities trust the details included in a biodiversity net gain plan, and as a result, they will play a significant role in the planning permission process.

Book a BNG Plan for Your Project

As experts on biodiversity net gain, Arbtech stand as one of the few ecological consultancies that have been immensely knowledgeable about the policy ever since it was first announced in 2019. With ecologists located all over the country, developers would be best speaking to us about our biodiversity net gain plans so we can arrange for an assessment on their site in the South Cambridgeshire area.

To arrange a BNG assessment and make the first step in creating a biodiversity net gain plan, fill out our quick quote form, call us using the number above, or look over our other contact options. At this point, we would advise providing as much detail about your project and site as possible to give us the best chance of giving you a completely accurate free quote. Assuming you are happy to proceed, send the quote form back and we can work out a time to visit your site and help you with meeting the BNG requirement and gaining planning permission.

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