Approved as part of the 2021 Environment Act and covering England, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) was due to apply from November 2023 but recent media reports suggest that it is being paused. Does this help or hinder FMB members who fall within its scope?
What is BNG?
The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states on its website that: “Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is a way to contribute to the recovery of nature while developing land. It is making sure the habitat for wildlife is in a better state than it was before development.” They have also stated that recording of BNG will be available online from November 2023 as well.
What’s the latest?
A recent BBC article has reported that the government is delaying bringing in the changes for larger sites until the New Year. Although it's worth noting that the deadline for smaller sites is not changing and will remain at April 2024. Smaller sites are defined as having up to 9 dwellings on a site that's less than 1 hectare, or if the number of dwellings isn't known, up to 0.5 hectares.
In February this year DEFRA were also giving clarity on the rules which would govern BNG and this was welcomed by the FMB (Clarity about new Biodiversity Net Gain Rules welcomed by small house builders, says FMB | FMB, Federation of Master Builders) so any changes seem to be linked to the start date rather than the scheme itself.
What does this mean for FMB members?
For one member I was speaking with, BNG has already caused delays within their local planning authority as there had not been suitable guidance given to planners, planning consultants or S106 lawyers. In their case, the member still has an unresolved planning application already delayed by 10 months with no end in sight.
While there is no official confirmation of a new start date as of today (29 September 2023), FMB members who are required under BNG to report should continue to aim for a November 2023 but to keep an eye out for updates from official sources.
If BNG is postponed, it will undoubtably lead to even more of a delay for FMB members and their developments which fall within the scope of BNG, which has a further knock-on effect to the clients and the wider economy.
Share your thoughts
Are you involved with projects which are in scope of the Biodiversity Net Gain scheme? What’s your experience of managing this so far? You can let us know your thoughts in our annual FMB House Builders' Survey 2023.
Alternatively, if there’s something else that’s affecting you and your business, feel free to contact me.
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