What is Biodiversity Gain?
Government guidance describes Biodiversity Gain as “an approach which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand” (www.gov.uk).
In practice, biodiversity gain refers to development that gives rise to a positive impact through avoiding or mitigating harm to biodiversity, specifically in relation to habitat features, and then delivering improvements through habitat creation or enhancement.
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Paragraph 170, refers to biodiversity gain: “Planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by … minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures”. This is current national policy in England.
The Environment Bill, which is expected to become law in England with Royal Assent due in Autumn 2021, will make biodiversity gain mandatory. The Government’s expectations for delivery of biodiversity gain are set out in the forthcoming legislation which will include amended biodiversity duties for local planning authorities:
- Developers must deliver 10 per cent biodiversity gain through their schemes; this will be measured through a metric.
- Local Planning Authorities must produce “local nature recovery strategies” and administer the system; this will encourage habitat creation and enhancement in the right places.
- If they cannot deliver biodiversity locally, developers will have to buy “biodiversity units”.
- Developers have to guarantee the biodiversity gain for 30 years. This provides the security of biodiversity gain delivery.
Some local planning authorities in England already have biodiversity gain policies within their Local Plans, although the approach taken by different planning authorities currently varies.