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Biodiversity Net Gain – Manchester

Biodiversity net gain is relevant to new development schemes across Greater Manchester and the City of Manchester in a bid to halt the decline in the quality of the natural environment. The policy is governed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Manchester City Council, and a biodiversity net gain (BNG) plan is a requirement for anyone wanting to achieve planning permission for a development site.

Improving natural habitats: biodiversity net gain has been boosted on the River Irk in Manchester.

What is a Biodiversity Net Gain plan?

Biodiversity Net Gain was introduced as a policy in the Environment Act 2021 and is designed to improve the natural environment, leaving biodiversity in a better state following building work. It means that a development site must improve its on-site biodiversity value according to a metric: completed projects must leave nature in a measurably better state than predevelopment, achieving a minimum 10% increase in site biodiversity, and the scheme must be maintained for the long term – 30 years. The `on-site’ definition includes land within the red line boundary of the project.

The Act stipulates that development schemes must submit a Biodiversity Net Gain plan to the local planning authority required to approve the plan before works begin. The Biodiversity Net Gain plan explains how new development will deliver the necessary amount of site biodiversity, providing local planning authorities with the information needed to check that schemes meet the consistent framework and new processes of Biodiversity Net Gain.

Mandatory BNG was introduced on 12 February 2024 for major developments and for small sites from 2 April 2024. Nationally significant infrastructure projects will be required to deliver net gain at a date in 2025.

Biodiversity net gain is reinforced by the National Planning Policy Framework which states that plans should identify opportunities for securing measurable net gain in the natural environment, leaving biodiversity in a better state than previously.

The Manchester city region and biodiversity

In Manchester’s Biodiversity Strategy 2022-2030, the city’s plans for nature recovery include an emphasis on biodiversity net gain in Greater Manchester and the city region, helping to combat climate change. The city is home to several green spaces including some of the country’s oldest public parks; Philips Park and Queen’s Park date from the 1840s. Restoration projects in the 1970s and 1980s improved swathes of habitat along the Rivers Irk, Medlock and Mersey to the benefit of the local community, and the city has eight designated Local Nature Reserves and 37 sites of Biological Importance, along with rivers and canals.

The Manchester city region is vital in contributing to delivering net gain in Greater Manchester: Local Nature Recovery Strategies involve initiatives that help wildlife species move freely across the area and further afield. The Manchester Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan link to the Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Strategy; all aim to improve the natural environment.

Delivering net gain: Castlefield in Manchester, the UK’s first urban heritage park.

The Biodiversity Net Gain process

An ecological surveyor will make a site visit to assess habitat, species, and ecological features present to create a biodiversity net gain plan. Using the current universal biodiversity metric for assessing a site’s biodiversity, they will calculate biodiversity value before and after development. The difference between these two measurements will show what improvements to site biodiversity are needed before the required 10% uplift is added.

The Biodiversity Net Gain plan will summarise information from the survey, including the biodiversity measurements, and outline the necessary measures to achieve the 10% uplift. Creating Biodiversity Net Gain on-site is the preferred option: methods include habitat creation, and improving natural habitats to safeguard protected species. If this is not possible, Biodiversity Net Gain may be delivered off-site or by purchasing biodiversity units via a private market.

If biodiversity units need to be purchased, the process will be explained. The completed Biodiversity Net Gain plan containing this detailed guidance can then be presented to local planning authorities to assist with a planning application.

Do you need to arrange a Biodiversity Net Gain plan?

If you must provide a BNG plan to support submission requirements for planning applications to planning authorities in Manchester City Region or the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the first step is to identify an ecological consultancy with experience in working locally on Biodiversity Net Gain plans.

The firm must employ fully qualified ecological consultants who can offer expert advice about the best way to deliver net gain and leave the natural environment in a better state post-development, helping you to achieve success with your planning application.

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