Biodiversity Net Gain- What documents do you need?

December 5, 2023 | Gigi Hennessy

Credit Tom Ellis

 

Defra have announced secondary legislation this week (04/12/23) to outline what developers and landowners need to do in order to meet biodiversity net gain requirements coming into force in January 2024.

As part of this, a series of new documentation requirements have also been announced. This can seem incredibly daunting and overwhelming, so in this post we break down what documents developers and landowners need, some general information on what each entails, and where you can find more information about each one.

Developers

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Report 

The first step in meeting biodiversity net gain requirements is to obtain a baseline assessment using the most up-to-date statutory BNG metric developed by DEFRA. This will tell you how many biodiversity units are present on your development site before works have taken place. This assessment must be completed by a qualified ecologist, who must then also calculate the change in biodiversity units expected on the development site after building has taken place. This report will help guide development decisions, as avoidance of habitat loss and on-site gains are preferred by local authorities and should always be prioritised above off-site unit purchase.

More information here

Legal Agreements

Legal agreements are needed for both off-site gains or significant on-site gains. There are two ways to legally secure these gains:

  1. A planning obligation (S106) with a local planning authority
  2. A conservation covenant with a responsible body

As a developer you can choose to deliver BNG on off-site habitats which are already legally secured and registered on the Government registry. These sites do not need to be legally secured again. Alternatively, you can select a site that does not yet have a legal agreement in place, and get a legal agreement secured on it. The legal agreement outlines the commitment to creating or enhancing habitats, and that the habitats will be managed in the described way for a minimum of 30 years. You will need to agree how the units will be allocated, for example to one or more off-site providers. You need to state who will register the enhancement and the unit allocation on the national registry, ie. if this is the developer, landowner or land manager.

More information here

Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan (HMMP)

This report provides management and monitoring information for both on-site and off-site units. It gives a detailed schedule of what you plan to do in terms of creating and enhancing habitats and how you plan to manage and monitor the site for at least 30 years. You should work with a qualified ecologist to create this plan and it must be agreed with either the local planning authority or the responsible body. You will need to give information on:

  • How you plan to manage your site, taking into account any legal requirements
  • When and how you will monitor the site
  • How you will restore the site if the management plan isn’t working

Natural England have created a template on what is needed in creating a HMMP. More information from Defra can also be found here

Biodiversity Gain Plan

This can be submitted to your local planning authority after your planning application has been approved. As part of this plan you need to provide:

  • A completed metric calculation [from your biodiversity net gain report]
  • Pre-development and post-development plans [from your biodiversity net gain report]
  • BNG register reference numbers if purchasing units from off-site
  • A Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan

More information here

 

Credit Lianne de Me

Landowners

The documents needed for landowners are very similar to those needed by developers, although there are a few differences. One key difference is that there is no need to submit a Biodiversity Gain Plan as a landowner.

Biodiversity Net Gain report

The first step in getting your land ready for biodiversity net gain is to have a baseline assessment of your land carried out using the statutory biodiversity metric. This will inform you of how many units are present on your site before any proposed restoration/creation changes. This assessment must be completed by a qualified ecologist, who must then also calculate the change in biodiversity units expected on the site after restoration/enhancement takes place. An ecologist will guide you on what kind of restoration is possible and then determine the total number of units you will be able to sell over the 30 years.

More information here

 

Legal Agreements

Landowners will need legal agreements covering the proposed works on their site either with the local authority through a section 106 or a responsible body through a conservation covenant. The agreement needs to outline the commitment to creating or enhancing habitat and how that habitat will be managed for at least 30 years. You will need to agree how enhancements will be allocated, for example to one or more developments, and you will need to state who will register the enhancement and the unit allocation on the national registry, ie. if this is the developer, landowner or land manager. These agreements will also outline what happens if units are not delivered, or the management plan is not adhered to. Legal agreements can be secured before agreeing the sale of units with a developer or after.

More information here

 

Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan (HMMP)

This document is where you detail the management and monitoring information for the site where biodiversity net gain is to be delivered. It provides a detailed schedule of what you plan to do in terms of creating and enhancing habitats and how you plan to manage and monitor the site for at least 30 years. You should work with a qualified ecologist in the creation of this plan and it must be agreed with either the local planning authority or the responsible body. You will need to give information on:

  • How you plan to manage your site, taking into account any legal requirements
  • When and how you will monitor the site
  • How you will restore the site if the management plan isn’t working

Natural England have created a template and more information on what is needed in creating a HMMP can be found here

Registering your site on the government register

This can be completed by a landowner, or with the landowner’s permission, a land manager or developer. The government registry of off-site BNG providers will become live in January 2024 when BNG becomes mandatory. A site must be registered in order for off-site units to be allocated between a landowner site and a development project.

 

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Gigi Hennessy

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