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Biodiversity Net Gain – Chichester

Development projects must carefully consider the environment following the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation. This new approach requires developers to leave the environment in a measurably better state than they found it.

To satisfy requirements for biodiversity net gain Chichester, the district council will need to consider a BNG plan alongside a planning application. 

West Sussex landscape: the view over the Kingley Dale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Chichester in south east England.

Background to biodiversity net gain

The BNG concept has been introduced into the National Planning Policy Framework to reduce the current state of decline in the UK’s wildlife, and combat the often negative impact of development. It imposes a legal duty on developers to improve a site by retaining its biodiversity value and providing nature based solutions to increase its bng score. The improvements must be maintained for the long term – at least 30 years.

Biodiversity net gain was part of the Environment Bill which became the Environment Act 2021 when it received royal assent. The Act requires development schemes to prove that they would provide a measurable uplift in the site’s biodiversity value of at least 10% before planning consent will be granted.

Following a two-year transition period, Natural England announced that BNG would become mandatory in November 2023 in England for major sites and small sites of nine units or less, and from April 2024 it applied to smaller sites (less than 0.5 hectares) and commercial developments under 1,000 square metres.

The legislation means that all development proposals must provide a BNG plan to demonstrate that the scheme will increase levels of biodiversity when completed, according to a biodiversity metric.

BNG is now one of the material planning considerations made by local planning authorities when they deal with proposals for new development and its potential impact on the natural environment. Other considerations include climate change adaptation, flood risk, ensuring that development is nutrient neutral, and protecting water and the environment in a bid to ensure long term sustainable growth and safeguard areas for future generations.

BNG forms part of Environment Agency goals for the nation to be resilient to climate change, have good air and water quality and enhance biodiversity on wildlife sites.

Chichester and BNG

Chichester, the county capital of West Sussex, is renowned as a biodiverse and beautiful area, with environmental assets ranging from the wetlands surrounding Chichester harbour, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), to the chalkland hills of the South Downs National Park, also an AONB, which surround it. West Sussex, in south east England, also boasts other national landscape areas such as the Low Weald, the South Coast Plain, and Wealden Greensand.

Not surprisingly, a key objective for Chichester District Council in its Local Plan, and West Sussex County Council, is nature recovery. The Local Plan takes account of the landscape value of the natural environment, making it a key part of its development strategy, which includes monitoring protected species and character areas, encouraging more wildlife corridors, creating biodiversity-rich spaces in Chichester’s parks, planting new trees, and installing bat and bird boxes.

The Local Biodiversity Action Plan for Chichester District provides a strategy for protecting biodiversity and habitat improvements in certain Biodiversity Opportunity Areas in the Sussex Biodiversity Action Plan. Priorities include developing local partnerships, obtaining an accurate picture of the area’s wildlife, and restoring and creating new habitats.

This is the background to material planning considerations made by the district council regarding proposed development as it aims to meet local communities’ needs for new housing developments, which must be built in the right place. Important environmental issues in this part of the south east include noise pollution, water quality, air quality, sustainable development and safeguarding areas of high ecological importance, for instance, those supporting bird populations or protected species such as water voles.

Carrying out a bng assessment

An ecological consultant will record all the ecological features on a site such as European-protected plant and animal species, trees and hedgerows, logging the information into the universal biodiversity metric developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The metric calculates the site’s current ecological value, and after considering the development plans and the expected environmental improvements on site, the consultant will be able to estimate the site’s biodiversity value post-development. This information will be entered into the metric, enabling a comparison between the two figures to assess how to get them to tally and add a minimum 10% uplift in biodiversity. If the biodiversity value needs to be increased, the BNG report will identify the best way to create more net gains on-site according to a mitigation hierarchy.

National policy states that the optimal solution is the creation of net gain on-site via methods such as new habitat creation or measures to ensure wildlife is not disturbed. If it proves impossible to deliver bng improvements such as habitat creation or tree planting on the site, the required net gain units may be delivered off-site, or a last resort option is to purchase biodiversity units.

When considering planning applications, a planning authority will base its decision on evidence in the biodiversity net gain plan, which will demonstrate that the site has minimised its impact on nature and provided the required number of BNG units. If the requirements of biodiversity net gain planning policy are ignored it can lead to delays and unlimited fines.

Do you need a BNG plan in Chichester?

A BNG plan completed by a reputable ecological consultancy will give you the best chance of success with your planning proposal. Use a consultancy that employs fully qualified consultants with experience in completing plans for the relevant local planning authority: they can provide important guidance to help you mitigate the adverse effects of development, increase biodiversity on your site, and clarify the route to obtaining planning permission.

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