On this 10th day of our Yule Blog, we revisit the 10% mandatory biodiversity net gain regime under the Environment Act (EA) 2021. What can we expect over the coming months as the government brings the requirement into force next year?

Recap - what is mandatory biodiversity net gain?

Part 6 of the EA 2021 introduced the now familiar requirement that, with a few exceptions, all development should achieve a net increase in biodiversity of at least 10%, to be maintained over at least 30 years. Our UK Environment Act 2021 Latest Thinking Hub has further information on how biodiversity net gain is intended to work:

We've also done a podcast series which may be helpful.

The mandatory biodiversity net gain requirement is due to come into effect in November 2023 for town and country planning development and in 2025 for nationally significant infrastructure projects. Progress has been made on conservation covenants, a new tool to help secure biodiversity net gain (see here). What else needs to be done to bring the requirement into force?

What to expect in 2023

Enough is probably known about the impending requirements to enable developers to be considering now how they can maximise net gains in their development proposals. However, we're waiting for more on the following.

Town and country planning development

Various provisions in Part 6 of the EA 2021 need to be brought into force for the mandatory requirement to take effect:

  • the necessary changes to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990;
  • the power for the Secretary of State to introduce the biodiversity gain site register - essential for the purposes of calculating registered offsite biodiversity gains; and
  • the power for the Secretary of State to introduce biodiversity credits.

The timing of this might coincide with publication of the government's response to Defra's January 2022 Consultation on biodiversity net gain regulations and implementation. This sought views on how biodiversity net gain will work in practice, to inform secondary legislation and guidance needed to implement the new system. For example, further regulations need to clarify who will establish and maintain the biodiversity gain site register, and also set out which land is eligible for registration, who can register land and how, how land can be removed from the register and what fees are payable. The Secretary of State also needs to set out arrangements for determining the value of biodiversity credits and the system for operating them. We were told that further stakeholder engagement would take place after the consultation, for example on the biodiversity net gain plan template. The government's response to the January 2022 consultation and further stakeholder engagement are awaited.

The January 2022 consultation promised a further consultation on the biodiversity metric. This took place in August 2022. The statutory version of the biodiversity metric is due to be published by the end of this year.

Nationally significant infrastructure projects

The January 2022 consultation sought views on a number of areas regarding the government's approach for mandatory biodiversity net gain as it will apply to NSIPs. However, a further consultation is expected on "the full draft approach (biodiversity gain statements) for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects".

Links to the previous posts in our Yule Blog series are below - check back tomorrow for our 9th day's post!

HSF Real Estate Development Yule Blog 2022 - previous posts:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.