by Jo Hanslip
On the 21st February 2023, the Government published details of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) guidance targeted at land managers and developers. The guidance indicated that there is now the opportunity for land managers or land agents to register land via an online service, which will be live from November 2023. It will apply to small sites from April 2024 see our blog here for definition of small sites
The guidance which can be viewed in full here:
In explaining BNG, the Government has indicated that biodiversity credits can be sold if the land manager is able to demonstrate that the land is:
- within England
- the landowners consent has been secured if it is not your land
- the subject of a legal agreement for the land being registered
For developers the Government has indicated that the loss of habitat must be avoided if possible and if this is not, then habitat creation is required either on or off site. If this is also not possible then credits can be acquired as a last resort. All three options should for part of any BNG assessment.
Who can sell biodiversity units?
- to a developer
- in partnership with your local authority
- through a habitat bank operator
- through a broker
- on a trading platform
Are there exceptions where units cannot be sold?
Biodiversity units cannot be sold where there is a requirement to create or enhance habitat for:
- restocking trees
- environmental impact assessment compensation
- marine licensing
How do you know what units are required?
You need to assess what habitats does the local area needs. This can be determined from LPA’s including sources such as:
- biodiversity action plans
- green infrastructure strategies
- catchment management plans
- biodiversity opportunity areas
- local nature partnership documentation
Can BNG be combined with other environmental credits such as nutrient credits?
Yes with nutrient credits…
Biodiversity units are calculated using the size of the habitat, its quality and location. The biodiversity metric should be used (version 4.0 will be issued later in 2023). This metric is anticipated to become statutory.
Nutrient mitigation is also known as nutrient neutrality. Nutrient credits can be created by reducing or capturing nutrients that would otherwise end up in protected water bodies.. see our blog here about stacking
How many BNG Units does a site have?
These are to be calculated by ecologists using the biodiversity metric.
What sort of legal agreement will I need?
You will need to be able to demonstrate a commitment to manage the habitat for at least 30 years. This will be controlled through s106 legal agreement or a conservation covenant. A habitat management and monitoring plan (HMMP) will be required.
What Price can I charge for Units?
This will need to be calculated having had regard to:
- management of the land covering at least 30 years
- monitoring and reporting
- ecologist or other experts’ costs
- costs to cover work if the habitat fails
- machinery, tools, and other staff to carry out the tasks
- inflation and market competition costs
- the cost of experts to review your legal agreement
How will I get paid?
This may be by lump sum, staged payment, or results and will be agreed with the LPA, developer or responsible body.
What do I need to do?
You will need to register land as biodiversity net gain site form November 2023. You can however sell units and allocate them prior to registration.