The Government needs to rethink its Biodiversity Net Gain scheme if it wants to encourage house building, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the National Audit Office (NAO) report released today, which identifies substantial risks to the long-term effectiveness of the scheme.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB commented: “The NAO’s criticism of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), for having failed to put all necessary elements in place ahead of launch of the BNG scheme echoes the concerns that were raised by small house builders at the time. SME housebuilders were broadly supportive of the aims of a BNG scheme, but they have been warning for some time that excessive regulation and additional costs to firms preparing for the changes, coupled with local authorities being significantly underprepared, will make it near impossible for smaller firms to manage. The NAO report has confirmed their fears. We will now need to see a substantial re-think from DEFRA, including increased funding for local authorities, if the Government wants to see a long-term environmental benefit.”

Berry concluded: “DEFRA’s acknowledgment that there had been mixed readiness among local authorities at the launch is a positive first step. Local authorities have been tasked with enforcing planning regulations at their own discretion, and DEFRA has said that it does not intend to provide central monitoring. The lack of involvement DEFRA has in the biodiversity credit market is also extremely worrying, especially as smaller builders are more likely to need to offset biodiversity offsite. Unless these issues are addressed, BNG will create substantial barriers to small house builders.”