In the Spring Statement the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government will use the planning system to mandate a net biodiversity gain from new development. However, the Consultation by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) left open questions about how the scheme will work in practice.
Biodiversity net gain will be measured by Defra’s biodiversity metric. The metric developed by Defra and Natural England allows practitioners to assess a habitat in terms of its value to wildlife, condition and size and thus calculate habitat losses and gains.
Under the NPPF development ‘should’ enhance the environment by minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity. Defra propose making this mandatory by updating planning guidance. This is likely to come forward in the Environment Bill due to be published before the summer.
The aim will be to avoid harm, then seek to mitigate harm before being allowed to compensate for habitat loss. Lichfield DC currently mandate a 20% gain in net biodiversity and this seems to work as they report average net gains of 60%.
Defra are considering an exemption for small schemes 10 units or 1,000sqm, also to exempt development on Brownfield Land and on commercial industrial land.
Offsetting could involve more Section 106 monies and Ecology reports will add £2,000+ to the upfront costs of a planning application submission.