As has been well signposted, the Environment Act 2021 introduced the obligation to deliver 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in connection with certain developments. Without being able to secure this, developers will be unable to commence work under relevant planning permissions. The obligation had been due to be brought into effect in November 2023.
On 21 February, the output of the government's consultation on the implementation of BNG was published. As well as confirming certain exemptions (such as self-build/custom housebuilding and householder planning applications) the government issued a statement confirming a six month delay for implementing BNG on small sites until April 2024; it is referred to as a phased introduction to adapt to the new rules. For the purposes of the deferral, a small residential site is defined in the statement as one providing less than 10 dwellings on a site smaller than 1hectare. For non-residential schemes, a small site is defined as where the floor space that is to be created is less than 1000m2 or where the site area is less than one hectare.
The justification for this is to allow the new rules to settle and give time to local authorities to get accustomed to the regime. As there is an inevitable cost to developers to both preparing for the change and integrating habitat improvement into designs for new developments, this may have implications for those developers that have already taken steps to meet this obligation and may put them at a commercial disadvantage over those who are yet to start.
Against the backdrop of the 25 Year Environment Plan having already been criticised for not meeting obligations to improve biodiversity, it may be that this leads to the government facing further accusations of failing to meeting its stated aims to improve biodiversity.
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