Defra kickstarted 2022 with its January consultation on biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations and im-plementation.
Building on the Environment Act published last year, the consultation was rooted in the planning system and examined how BNG should be introduced to planning for developments. The proposals covered small and large-scale development, phased and temporary developments, and everything down to household applications. It also included Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). The suggestion for most (but not all) developments was that the BNG should last for 30 years and attain 10% net gain.
The consultation included a potential biodiversity plan for developers and planners to use, and tackled onsetting and offsetting options. It also built on the concept of biodiversity units as a tool for creating biodiversity credits to be sold through biodiversity banks, as introduced in the Environment Act.
To ensure a robust response to the consultation, IEMA hosted a webinar with Defra and Natural England, followed by two workshops with IEMA members. IEMA members supported the attempt to create BNG within the planning system, as long as relevant resources were created to effectively implement and maintain BNG. IEMA’s recommendations included:
- Strong support for the use of the mitigation hierarchy and the exclusion of irreplaceable habitats as per the Planning Framework
- Resources are needed to carry out the proposals within the consultation, as well as upskilling and training
- Appropriate guidance for the use of the BNG plan document for developers and planners
- No de minimus for the size of habitat, and to make at least 10% net gain applicable for all developments except householder applications
- Inclusion of on-site compensation on the same register as offsets and credits to support monitoring and accountability
- That some NSIPs have net gain until their end of life.
The consultation involved 55 questions in total, and we now await a response from Defra, including on next steps.
IEMA’s full response can be found at bit.ly/IEMA_DefraBNG