Government expands net gain measures in revised natural environment planning guidelines

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In the March spring statement, the Treasury announced that “the government will impose net biodiversity gains on new developments in England to generate an overall increase in biodiversity”.

The announcement followed a consultation document released in December last year that proposed the requirement for a net gain in biodiversity – with possible exemptions for permitted developments and brownfields.

Revised guidelines released by the government yesterday indicate that net gain in planning “describes an approach to development that leaves the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before. Net gain is an umbrella term for both the net biodiversity gain and the wider environmental net gain. “

The document places more emphasis on ways in which development can improve biodiversity and the environment – such as drainage areas to create wetlands for birds and amphibians.

The guide provides a number of indications on how planning authorities can encourage net gains for biodiversity through planning policies and decisions.

The revised guidelines state: “Planning conditions or obligations may, in appropriate circumstances, be used to require a building permit to provide for work that will measurably increase biodiversity.

“An applicant can also propose measures to achieve a net gain in biodiversity through unilateral engagement.”

The guidance suggests that such measures could involve creating new habitats, improving existing habitats, providing green roofs, green walls, street trees or sustainable drainage systems.

He says: “Relatively small features can often provide significant benefits to wildlife, such as incorporating ‘quick bricks’ and bat boxes into developments and providing safe routes for hedgehogs between different areas of the land. ‘habitat.”

The guidelines indicate that the benefits could be achieved entirely on-site or by using off-site measures such as “habitat banks” – areas of improved or new habitat that generate biodiversity.

The guidelines state: “Planning authorities should ensure that any evidence and rationale provided by applicants is supported by appropriate scientific expertise and local knowledge of wildlife.”

Elsewhere, the guidelines state that the net gain in biodiversity “does not take precedence over the protection of designated sites, protected or priority species and irreplaceable or priority habitats” set out in the national strategic planning framework.

“Local planning authorities must ensure that the improvement of the habitat will be a real additional benefit and go beyond the measures already necessary to implement a compensation strategy,” he says.

Launching the directions, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “Building the new homes this country needs must not come at the expense of our natural heritage.

“It’s right that when we deliver homes for people, we also need to provide homes for wildlife – whether it’s hedgehogs, frogs, newts or birds.

“The public has told us that protecting wildlife is important to them. So my message to home builders is to harness that support and build in a way that protects the environment for the next generation.

According to the MHCLG, the “hedgehog highways” were “recommended for the first time for new housing estates”.

In May, the Royal Town Planning Institute joined with other professional, environmental and business bodies in calling on ministers to publish a “unified space framework” outlining how the UK’s environmental goals will be met alongside others. social and economic priorities.


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