The UK government has confirmed that requirements for developers to deliver biodiversity net gain (BNG) with new houses and infrastructure will be delayed until January 2024.
It had been expected that rules to build “nature positive” developments with 10% BNG – by creating new habitats and green spaces, for example – would come into force later this year.
However, the updated timetable requires developers in England to do this from January onwards, while BNG for small sites will be applicable from April 2024, and from 2025 for nationally significant infrastructure projects.
Martin Baxter, IEMA's deputy CEO, said that the delay risks compromising the government's recently announced Environmental Improvement Plan interim targets, and longer-term biodiversity targets set through the Environment Act.
He continued: “Delays to key environmental and climate policy initiatives undermine confidence for businesses to invest for a sustainable future, and undermine key environmental protections that are intended to reverse the decline in nature.
“We have been working with businesses first hand to help prepare them for the introduction of new BNG requirements, and know very well how much further delay and uncertainty will impact negatively on their ability to do what is right for our natural environment.”
BNG requirements are a fundamental part of the government’s plan to halt a decline in species abundance by 2030.
The delay comes on the same day that the UK's State of Nature report was published, which reveals that nearly one in six out of 10,000-plus species surveyed risk being lost from Great Britain.
Birds, amphibians and reptiles, fungi and lichen, and land mammals are the groups most at risk, including turtle doves and water voles.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said that, by the end of November, it will publish all BNG guidance and regulations, including a:
- Statutory biodiversity metric, critical for calculating the correct biodiversity gain
- Draft biodiversity gain plan template, which will help developers prepare for what they will need to complete during the planning application stages
- Habitat management and monitoring plan template, which will set out how the improved significant on-site and off-site habitats will be managed for the long term
- Package of BNG guidance that sets out further advice for landowners, developers, and local planning authorities around their role and responsibilities in delivering mandatory BNG.
Biodiversity minister, Trudy Harrison, said: “BNG will ensure new developments work for both wildlife and people. We will create nature-rich places whilst ensuring communities get the new homes and infrastructure they need.
“The updated timetable and guidance we are setting out today will help smooth the transition ahead of the BNG going fully live in January 2024.”
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