London’s Support of BNG
As the most urban part of England and the entire United Kingdom, London requires an emphasis on the retention of valuable natural features and the standard of biodiversity as a whole. Planning projects are a particularly sensitive subject due to the unavoidable affect on the environment, with initiatives designed to show acknowledgement of the potential impact including the most recent London plan, simple design considerations that cater to urban greening, and design approaches that work towards producing green infrastructure and resilient places for residents to work and live.
Local authorities across London including the City of London Corporation, the Greater London Authority and all other London councils therein are in support of a concept known as biodiversity net gain (BNG) that pledges to only allow development projects under certain parameters. It is one of several policies within the Environment Act 2021 that specifically insists upon developers showing evidence of practices to enhance biodiversity on a development site by a measurably better state compared to its original value.
Applying to nearly all new developments, BNG typically requires a 10% increase, but each local council across the country is given an opportunity to enforce a higher figure, even stretching as far as 20%. The UK government was understanding of how significant the introduction of BNG would be on development, and as a result, initiated an optional two-year transition period for all local councils. While the start date for implementing BNG has now been paused to 2024, the policy has now become an unavoidable consideration in planning.
Native Wildlife and the Natural Environment
An estimated 243 species of animals and plants feature across London, consisting of various types of bats, birds, hares, owls, mice and newts. All of them are protected under existing legislation, making it a criminal offence to cause any form of harm to them or their respective habitats. Other natural assets that may be safeguarded from harm by nationwide legislation and corresponding bodies such as the London Wildlife Trust include protected trees and conservation areas, and all of the above appear as constraints to a development proposal.
Based on the numerous considerations involved in a planning project, it can be a minefield for developers to fulfil all of the local authority’s conditions, get planning permissions granted, and progress to the next stage of the process. Cities are often more difficult due to the already limited selection of green areas, with local plans in place to make the city greener and fight against the effects of climate change. The necessity to deliver net gains of biodiversity has only added to the already comprehensive list of obligations.
Steps to Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain
Prior to local planning authorities expressing that sufficient evidence has been provided to confirm that the BNG requirement has been met and approve planning applications, they will need to look over a biodiversity net gain plan. An ecologist will possess a better understanding of what is needed to meet the mandate, and due to that, an ecological consultant will manage the biodiversity gain plan assessment before producing the all-important supporting information.
Upon visiting the development site in question, an ecological surveyor will inspect and analyse all ecological features present, noting them as part of the evaluation that will determine the current state of biodiversity. All assets from the site will be converted into a number and the numbers will be submitted into a biodiversity metric, with the resulting figure classed as the pre-development biodiversity value, and a post-development biodiversity value predicted based on the likely state of the site after the project is complete using conversations with the developer and all plans and drawings retrieved from them.
Between the two measurements, comparisons can be made and any deficit can be addressed and eliminated using suitable mitigation measures. Once both values are reflective of one another, additional changes can be put forward to achieve the desired 10% increase, such as new habitat creation on-site or alterations to the development plans. That said, it may not be possible to deliver net gains of biodiversity on-site, and if that is the case, the ecological consultant can count the number of biodiversity units needed and begin purchasing biodiversity credits off-site, effectively meaning that the mandate will be accounted for elsewhere in the country.
All of the information from the ecologist’s survey works will be displayed within an extensive biodiversity net gain plan. Including expert advice, instructions for meeting the rules of the planning policy, and the level of detail expected by the local planning authority before a planning application will be considered. In the eyes of London councils and other authorities across the country, biodiversity net gain plans are perceived as sources of trustworthy, reliable and effective data for adequately executing the planning requirement.
Apply for a BNG Plan Quote
Our connections from years of activity reach to various professionals in the planning industry, including a dependable team of ecologists that are registered in England and Wales for conducting a biodiversity net gain assessment and producing a biodiversity net gain plan. Offering coverage to all areas, the ecology team are present in London for satisfying the guidelines of the Greater London Authority, the City of London Corporation and any other authorities that are overseeing your development.
Rather than facing unexpected costs at uncertain prices late into the planning process, it would be advisable to reach out for an accurate quote by submitting information about the development site and planning project as early as possible. Simply fill out our quote form or visit our contact page, and once you have given us the specifications of your development, we can then calculate the cost of a BNG plan for your site and send across a free quote for you to look over.
As long as you are happy to move forwards with the quote provided, a date will be chosen for an ecological surveyor to attend your development site, record the necessary information and produce suitable next steps to meet BNG requirements before compiling everything into a biodiversity net gain plan. With it, you can pass on the sufficient evidence requested by your local council to successfully achieve net gain of biodiversity and secure planning permission.