What is biodiversity net gain (BNG)?
If you’re in the business of developing, the chances are you’ve heard the term ‘biodiversity net gain’, or ‘BNG’, verbalised a lot recently. This is likely because it recently became mandatory as part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and will have a dramatic impact upon how we approach developments and land management in the future. It’ll be one of the biggest changes the UK would have seen to conservation funding for decades. Below we’ll explain exactly what BNG is, how it’ll affect you, why it’s important and what you’ll need to do to ensure you’re compliant.
What is BNG?
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an approach to “development that aims to leave biodiversity in a better state than before, and where developers work with local governments, wildlife groups, landowners and other stakeholders in order to support their priorities for nature conservation1”. It requires a minimum 10% net gain for most developments which needs to be maintained for at least 30 years. Put simply, this soon-to-be mandatory practice requires developers to make the land they develop upon better and richer. BNG will become law in 2023 and sits under the Environment Act.
Why is BNG important?
Biodiversity is in decline across the globe and is under threat in the UK. In fact, according to a 2021 report from the RSPB2, the UK only achieved 3 of the 20 ‘Aichi Targets’ put in place a decade ago to save life on Earth. If we don’t implement changes soon biodiversity loss could cause irreversible damage to ecosystems and affect the livelihoods and quality of life of those that come after us.
The construction industry significantly impacts the planet, with land clearing and deforestation being one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss, and construction accounting for 40% of the total flow of raw materials into the global economy every year – around 3 billion cubic tons3. This means the implementation of a mandatory biodiversity net gain for developments in the UK has been welcomed with open arms by experts.
How is biodiversity net gain achieved?
A biodiversity net gain can be achieved by following the good practice principles for BNG, developed by CIRIA, CIEEM and IEMA4. These principles should provide a framework for development projects:
How will BNG affect me?
Developers will need to consider BNG at the constraints and opportunities phase of development. Trying to add on biodiversity enhancements after design is rarely successful. It may well reduce the developable area of land, so costs and profitability can be affected. There are offset schemes but these are in early stages and they will also have cost implications. Nationally the BNG scheme does not go live until the autumn of 2023, but many local authorities require it now. The simple advice would be to plan ahead and consider BNG along with any early design proposals. This may include seeking the help of a consultant.
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2 RSPB Annual Report 2020-2021
3 The Business & Biodiversity Resource Centre
4 CIEEM, section 1.2
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