Following the Spring Statement commitment to mandate net gain for biodiversity in new development in the Environment Bill, the results of the original Defra consultation – to which UKGBC responded – have been published and outline further details of the policy.

The response indicates that legislation will require new development to achieve a 10% net gain for biodiversity, alongside introducing both a new system of environmental spatial mapping and a new framework for ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’, both in the Environment Bill.

The Government will also establish a publicly available ‘habitat register’ of compensatory habitat sites. This register will show where habitat is being created, how much and of what type, as well as what development it is offsetting. Any ‘net gains’ delivered will have to be maintained for a minimum of 30 years, and the Government will encourage longer term protection where this is acceptable to the landowner.

There will be no broad exemptions. Instead, there will be only clearly defined exemptions such as permitted development, brownfield that meets biodiversity or viability checks, and householder applications, such as extensions. Small sites will remain in the scope of the mandatory net gain approach; however, the Government will consider whether minor residential developments should be subject to longer transition arrangements or a lower net gain requirement.

The policy will include a general transition of period of two years, alongside continued application of the mitigation hierarchy.

UKGBC have welcomed the proposals, many of which match what we called for in our response following consultation with members and wider stakeholders.

Philip Box, Policy and Project Coordinator at UKGBC said:

“These proposals mark a significant improvement on the status quo, and would help ensure biodiversity is enhanced whilst new development is delivered. We particularly welcome the commitment to publish practical guidance, making it clear to developers what will be required and when, and how requirements interact with other environmental considerations. Likewise, we also welcome the commitment to continue to engage with the industry to address concerns, risks and communicate the opportunities offered by net gain.”

“It is imperative that the new Prime Minster keep to his pledge to enact proposals currently in Defra’s pipeline. This will be vital in addressing the ongoing decline in the UK’s biodiversity.”

More details can be read here