Defra’s consultation on biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations and implementation looks at how to enact BNG within the planning system, as set out in last year’s Environment Act.
IEMA hosted a well-received webinar on 11 February, at which Max Heaver, BNG policy and legislation team lead at Defra, and Nick White, principal adviser on net gain at Natural England, discussed the consultation with members. At the beginning of March, IEMA also held two member workshops to dive deeper into the details.
The consultation is substantial and, perhaps unsurprisingly, some common questions have developed among members of IEMA.
One of the most significant concerns how to ensure that biodiversity is enhanced on-site, where impacts have taken place, rather than off-site. Off-site compensation, including the purchase of biodiversity units or statutory credits, might be more attractive to developers because of their ease of acquisition (especially in terms of time), and because the 30-year maintenance and monitoring responsibilities would not lie with the developer.
There are also questions about how to ensure that on-site gain is maintained. Where biodiversity units and statutory credits are proposed as part of a register, on-site compensation and gain will be self-regulated, and seem unenforceable. There is potential for there to be a net loss of biodiversity.
One solution might be to set up a register or method for reporting ongoing on-site gain (or loss) and for this to be monitored in the same way as off-site and biodiversity units and credits.
IEMA’s full response to the consultation will be published in April.