What is BNG?
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a policy implemented to ensure the recovery of nature while developing land. It helps ensure that any habitats for wildlife are left in a better state than it was before development.
What do Local Planning Authorities need to do?
The implementation of BNG will require Local Planning Authorities (LPA) to collect and scrutinise large amounts of data at the planning application stage and continue monitoring over the following 30 years. Regardless of how many applications are received, all LPAs are required to deliver this.
What are the challenges?
Not all LPAs are aware of the scale of the new monitoring work which is required to fulfil their duties to assure the delivery of BNG in their authority. This is important as the LPAs will have the responsibility of the watchdogs of BNG alongside ensuring BNG compliance using their existing planning enforcement powers. Failure to deliver any of these responsibilities would jeopardise the benefits of BNG and potentially make LPAs subject to legal action. On top of these responsibilities, LPAs may have to:
- Keep track of who is responsible for implementing BNG plans, including any land change ownership or if different bodies take over;
- Check that monitoring reports are submitted and chase missing ones;
- Take action when plans go off-track and negotiating remedial steps; and
- Undertake site visits to support the above actions.
Due to the monitoring lasting 30 years, this will require immense coordination, recording and transferring all relevant data as staff members move on over a 30-year period.
How can LPAs offset these risks?
Buying credits from the LPA
Many LPAs are offering developers the option to buy offsite Units from the Council themselves as this aligns with the Biodiversity Duty and avoids conflict of interest due to LPAs being large organisations.
The implementation of software systems can assist LPAs by:
- Displaying the BNG Metric to support initial assessments and long-term tracking;
- Ensure Habitat Management and Monitoring Plans;
- Keep track of when reports are due; and
- Provide a document trail for when enforcement is required.
Collaborative research alongside new policies and processes are being created to provide support with monitoring. By working together, LPAs can avoid the unmanageable burden of BNG to allow focus on the opportunity to establish and maintain nature rich areas to benefit all.
How Acer Ecology can help you?
Our ecologists are skilled in undertaking biodiversity net gain assessments and can help you through the process.