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Landowners and developers hungry for information on bio-diversity net gain

05/02/2020

The Environment Bill is now firmly back on the Parliamentary agenda, but landowners and developers are desperate for practical information on the bio-diversity net gain element of the Bill and the possible impacts on their operations.

“Whilst there is no shortage of narrative and rhetoric about bio-diversity net gain, what landowners and developers need is practical information on what they will have to do to comply with the Environment Bill and its real effect on the planning and development process,” says Victoria Longmore (pictured right), Partner and specialist in planning and highway law at Lodders, which works with farmers, farming business, landowners and property developers.

“Development that adopts a bio-diversity net gain approach seeks to make a positive impact on the environment, by delivering improvements through habitat creation or enhancement, after avoiding or mitigating harm as far as possible.”

Key significance

Part 6 of the Environment Bill sets out provisions relating to protections of habitats, nature and bio-diversity, and is of key significance for landowners and developers:

“The provisions include a condition where the commencement of development cannot begin unless a bio-diversity gain plan is submitted and approved by the relevant local planning authority,” she says. “The mandatory requirement for developers is to provide a 10 percent bio-diversity net gain in respect of any new development that can result in degradation of habitat, and this will affect developers and landowners in a number of ways.”

Net gain is used as an umbrella term for both bio-diversity net gain and wider environmental net gain. Specifically, bio-diversity net gain delivers measurable improvements for bio-diversity by creating or enhancing habitats in association with development; measures taken by developers must lead to ‘genuine and demonstrable gains for bio-diversity’, which is demonstrated using the government’s bio-diversity metric.

Bio-diversity net gain

Bio-diversity net gain can be achieved on-site, off-site or through a combination of the two measures. These measures can be required in planning conditions, or applicants can propose measures through a planning obligation.

Victoria explains: “Once the bio-diversity units have been calculated, the mandatory requirement of 10 percent net gain for bio-diversity is added to the units, setting out the amount of bio-diversity units the scheme should be worth at its conclusion. In practice this means that if a site is worth 50 bio-diversity units before development, the site along with any additional measures, should be worth 55 units at the end of development.”

“In order to implement these requirements as smoothly as possible, the consultation response said that the Bill would set a transition period of two years to introduce the mandatory bio-diversity net gain requirement, and landowners and developers need guidance and information now to ensure they are fully prepared.”

Lodders has worked with farmers, landowners and rural businesses throughout its 230-year history. One of the firm’s leading Rural specialists Rod Bird (pictured left) says: “Not only does Lodders agriculture team understand the demands and dynamics of everyone working and living in the rural sector, from landowners and farmers, to property developers, it is also committed to supporting all facets of the rural and land sectors.

As part of its support, the firm is running a series of practical seminars and events, beginning with a Development and Nature Planning Seminar in Warwickshire this week.

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Diane Wood, V Formation on 07887 794507 or by email