Biodiversity Net Gain for Developers

Housing and reed bed Ben Hall/2020VISION

Ben Hall/2020VISION

Maximising Biodiversity Net Gain for Developers

Biodiversity Net Gain for Nature

Based on population forecasts Kent County Council are predicting that 222,757 dwellings will need to be built between 2020 and 2040 in the county (Kent County Council area plus Medway Unitary Authority). At the same time the Kent Biodiversity Strategy 2020-2040 aims to protect and recover threatened species through habitat maintenance, restoration and creation. But these aims don't have to be mutually exclusive. The Environment Act 2021 will make Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) a legal requirement for the majority of developments from January 2024, and for ‘small sites’ from April 2024.

The act lays out that a minimum of 10% net gain is required, although we are campaigning for local authorities and developers to deliver at least 20% which we hope will be delivered voluntarily for the benefit of nature. When planning any development, developers should check local authority requirements and always follow the Mitigation Hierarchy, which is a set of prioritised steps designed to minimise harm to local nature.

Mitigation Hierachy Overview from UKGBC's 'The Mitigation Hierarchy Factsheet'

Mitigation Hierachy Overview from UKGBC's 'The Mitigation Hierarchy Factsheet'

This diagram from UKGBC gives an overview of the mitigation hierachy requirements, you can find out more in the FAQ section below or by getting in touch with our consultancy team.

beaver, ham fen

Beaver in amongst the habitat at Ham Fen by Terry Whittaker

Why deliver 20% BNG?

The Kent Nature Partnership is proposing a county-wide approach to biodiversity net gain to be adopted by all Kent’s planning authorities, that will deliver good outcomes for both nature and communities, as well as providing consistency for developers. Kent County Council (with funding support from Natural England) commissioned this strategic viability assessment of BNG in Kent. 

Why deliver 20% BNG in Kent?
Ecology Groups Volunteers Survey

Introducing Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue Environmental Consultants are part of the Kent Wildlife Group and have a wide range of expertise and experience in high integrity BNG project delivery from start to finish.

They offer robust, pragmatic, best practise expertise and services to developers, planners, landowners and businesses with all profits reinvested back into nature conservation through the trust.

Their full range of services ensure your investment delivers significant gains for nature, goes above and beyond regulatory requirements and supports your business goals.

Adonis Blue Environmental Services
Juvenile Common / Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) recently released by the Great Crane Project onto the Somerset Levels and Moors foraging in pastureland with seven roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), cattle, a farmworker and his tractor in the background.

Nick Upton/2020VISION

Kent Wildlife Trust's Habitat Bank

Kent Wildlife Trust Habitat Banks provide offsite biodiversity units to Local Planning Authorities and approved developers who are looking to fulfil their BNG requirements and go above and beyond for nature.

You can find available sites from Kent Wildlife Trust reserves through either Adonis Blue Environmental Consultancies BNG portal or shortly through Kent County Council's BNG hub. If you'd like to know more please get in touch.

Adonis Blue BNG Offsite Portal
Roadside Nature Reserve Shoreham

Local Nature Recovery Strategy

The Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) is a key component of the landmark Environment Act 2021, which sets out targets to improve air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction across the UK. Specifically for biodiversity, the Act aims to halt species’ decline and increase their abundance. LNRS can also support a strategic approach to off-site BNG delivery, agreeing evidence-based locations to expand and connect existing habitat and provide wider environmental benefits. This will support BNG in creating locally driven, joined-up outcomes for nature. The development of the Strategy will be undertaken by the Making Space for Nature in Kent and Medway project team. 

Making Space for Nature

Delivering High Integrity BNG

Ecological consultants who want to do things properly, like Adonis Blue Environmental, should ensure that any given scheme should be based on:

  • Commitment to the Mitigation Hierarchy and evidence of its application.
  • Statement on likely impacts to irreplaceable habitats and/or other important ecological features.
  • Evidence of a measurable BNG contribution which achieves the best outcomes for biodiversity possible.
  • Assessment of feasibility of BNG design, including compensation proposals and offsets
  • Recommendations for design and management to maximise benefits to biodiversity, with reference to relevant national or local biodiversity strategies.
  • Detailed plans for management and monitoring of the BNG scheme.
  • Consideration of additionality (i.e. that there is a genuine biodiversity uplift)
  • Description of stakeholder engagement and evidence of inclusivity and equitability
  • Identification of risks and the addressing of these.
  • Evidence of budgetary consideration for BNG delivery.
  • Confirmation of verification and audit process.
  • Transparency and evidentiality.

These requirements align with requirements that other organisations, such as the Chartered Institute
of Ecology and Environmental Management
(CIEEM) have produced.

Frequently Asked Questions for Developers

What do developers need to do to assess BNG requirements?

An ecological assessment will first need to be be conducted before any development begins to measure the baseline biodiversity value of the site. Using the project plans, another measurement will be taken to predict the expected biodiversity value after the development. By comparing these two readings, necessary changes can be made to ensure a 10% increase in biodiversity, removing any obstacles that may prevent the local planning authority from granting approval for the site.

Once the current biodiversity value is determined, the applicant will calculate the number of Biodiversity Units required to achieve their desired net gain in biodiversity after the development. These units can be created within the development site or in a suitable location elsewhere if necessary.

This information must be submitted as part of a new planning application and approved by the Local Authority before planning permission is granted. Our team of experts can help not only assess and plan your project but deliver and review it too, please get in touch with our consultancy team for a quote to do this work for you.

Download Adonis Blue Environmental Consultancy Services Overview

What is the biodiversity mitigation hierachy?

Biodiversity net gain is underpinned by the mitigation hierarchy, which is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The Mitigation Hierarchy outlines a sequential approach to addressing impacts from development on biodiversity, prioritised as per below:

  1. Avoidance: project proposals should firstly seek to avoid any adverse impacts on biodiversity through symapathetic scheme design.
  2. Minimise: where avoidance is not feasible, adverse impacts on biodiversity should be minimised by modifying scheme design and strategy as much as possible.
  3. Mitigate: all non-avoidable adverse impacts on biodiversity must be adequately replaced or mitigated for, on the development site.
  4. Offset or Compensate: the final resort after all other options have been exhausted is to offset or compensate for the adverse impacts on biodiversity through offsite compensation.

Whilst biodiversity net gain relates only to habitats, the mitigation hierarchy is applied to all aspects of ecology and potential for avoidance, minimisation, mitigation and offsetting impacts on species will also need to be considered outside of a BNG approach.

It is crucial to adopt a ‘nature first’ approach in development projects, where every effort must be made to avoid causing harm to the existing biodiversity on the site. To successfully meet biodiversity targets, it is necessary to retain and work alongside existing natural features onsite, and only use offsetting as a last resort.

How can I deliver biodiversity gains?

Developers are required to achieve a biodiversity net gain of 10% under the mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation. This can be measured using the statutory biodiversity metric. There are three ways for developers to reach the 10% BNG target. Developers have the flexibility to combine all three steps, but it is important to follow the steps in the specified order.

  1. Enhance and restore biodiversity within the red line boundary of the development site. This means taking measures to improve the biodiversity onsite.
  2. If developers are unable to achieve the full 10% BNG onsite, they have the option to combine onsite and offsite efforts following the mitigation hierachy. This can be done by making biodiversity gains on their own land outside the development site or purchasing offsite biodiversity units from the market.
  3. In cases where developers cannot achieve the required biodiversity net gain either onsite or offsite, they must resort to buying statutory biodiversity credits from the government. However, this should be considered as a last resort. The revenue generated from these purchases will be used by the government to invest in habitat creation in England.

Why should I deliver more than the mandatory 10% BNG?

The Environment Bill mandates a minimum 10% increase in biodiversity value before granting planning permission. This value is determined using a biodiversity metric established by the Secretary of State and applied nationwide.

Kent faces various land use pressures due to its location near London and as a gateway to Europe. The county experiences significant and unprecedented levels of growth and yet it is also home to over 20,000 species of animals and plants, accounting for nearly 30% of all species in the country.

A study conducted by Vivid Economics on behalf of Natural England examined the economic and developmental impacts of biodiversity net gain. It concluded that the financial viability of housing developments (up to a 20% biodiversity net gain scenario) would not be significantly affected.

Implementing biodiversity net gain onsite can also enhance the value of developments. Proximity to open spaces can increase the value of commercial properties by 3% and housing by 18% according to Kent Nature Partnership's report. Furthermore, promoting biodiversity net gain can create a thriving natural environment teeming with wildlife, providing local communities with opportunities for engagement and reaping the mental and physical health benefits of such connections.

In summary, a biodiversity net gain of 20% or more demonstrates a real commitment to support the nature recovery network, prioritise nature in planning and development, and deliver higher-value homes and buildings.

What's the difference between onsite and offsite BNG?

Typically, the requirements remain the same for both on-site and off-site BNG. Regardless of the location, developers need to:

  1. Ensure a mandatory 10% increase in BNG, regardless of its impact on existing biodiversity.
  2. Conduct a habitat assessment prior to development and utilise the statutory biodiversity metric to accurately calculate the biodiversity value of habitats before and after the project. This will determine if the 10% BNG target (or more depending on the local authority and your preferences) has been achieved.
  3. Prepare and submit a biodiversity gain plan once planning permission has been granted.

Developers may have different obligations when delivering on-site compared to off-site BNG, these obligations include:

  1. Management and monitoring, which can be in the form of a habitat management and monitoring plan (HMMP).
  2. There may be a legal agreement with a local planning authority (a section 106 agreement) or responsible body (a conservation covenant).
  3. There is a requirement to maintain the BNG for a minimum of 30 years which is mandatory for offsite locations but only mandatory onsite for 'significant' onsite habitat enhancements.

How can I ensure BNG units are genuine?

All planning applications must include a BNG delivery plan that explains how a site will increase biodiversity after development.

Our BNG solutions have a proven track record of enhancing biodiversity in Kent for over 20 years. We prioritise long-term biodiversity improvement and make the most of your land's potential to benefit nature. Our BNG offsetting solutions are guided by the high integrity principles of Kent Wildlife Trust Group, ensuring maximum benefits for nature are protected in the long run.

Choosing the right habitat. We carefully select habitat interventions that strategically support local nature recovery priorities and contribute to wider conservation goals. Our approach is based on the latest environmental research and aligns with the conservation vision of the Kent Nature Partnership, which aims to create a connected network of natural spaces across the county.

Maximising benefits for nature. Our BNG solutions exceed the minimum requirement by delivering at least a 20% uplift. We avoid offsetting for habitats that are irreplaceable, highly distinct, or important for local species populations. Whenever possible, we create offset solutions that have recognisable wildlife value and the potential to become designated Local Wildlife Sites.

Sustainability. Our habitat management plans prioritize climate resilience and consider how sites can provide additional benefits to communities, such as reducing flood risk, acting as air pollution barriers, and offering recreational opportunities.

We provide a personalised service by taking into account the unique aspects of each project. We customise our service to align with the most suitable offset solution for each development. Our partners BTF have unparalleled expertise in rural land ownership in Kent and the Southeast. Additionally, our collaboration with farmer clusters has given us a deep understanding of land management in the agricultural landscape.

Visit Adonis Blue Environmental Consultancy to find out more.

How can Kent Wildlife Trust Group help?

Kent Wildlife Trust Group can offer a range of services to enable developments to deliver the least environmental impact possible. We have a wealth of experience in delivering habitat improvement projects that maximise the benefits to local wildlife and nature and can provide you with expertise and advice at every step of your project. BNG provides the opportunity to drive best practise development and land management combined with funds to protect and restore nature across Kent.

Kent Wildlife Trust Group are now very well placed to make Biodiversity Net Gain work for wildlife in our county.

  • Our Planning team work closely with the planning teams at Kent County Council and will continue to object – where required – to highlight bad planning applications, whilst working with local planning authorities, developers and partners in the Kent Nature Partnership to make sure that BNG is delivered within an effective and a joined up local policy framework that puts nature first.
  • Our Consultancy team will work with those developers who pass our due diligence processes to develop BNG plans that have the best chance of driving real gains for wildlife – working in a mission consistent way with Kent Wildlife Trust and investing profits back into nature conservation.
  • Our Land Management team will then be able to take on long-term management of any additional land that we can bring into conservation management as offsets are created.