Biodiversity Net Gain Requirement Date Confirmed: What does this mean for planning applications?

lot of native flowers and grass, with a small butterfly sitting on one of the flower heads

From 12th February 2024, biodiversity net gain (BNG) will be mandatory for all major developments (unless otherwise exempt) made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. 

Major developments include residential sites with 10 or more dwellings, or developments on sites greater than 0.5 hectares. 

The legislation will only apply to planning applications made on or after the commencement date.

BNG for small sites has also been confirmed for 2 April 2024. The government defines small developments as residential sites with 1 – 9 homes, or if unknown the site is less than 0.5 hectares.

Commercial developments classified as ‘small’ refer to floor space less than 1,000 square metres or the total site area is less than one hectare.

The government has confirmed minor changes have been made to the legislation and more information on this will be made available in the weeks leading up to 12 February.

So what does this mean for planning applications?

New validation requirements

Planning applications will require:

  1. A statement to explain why the application is exempt from BNG; or
  2. The provision of relevant information such as the pre-development onsite biodiversity value and a map showing the onsite habitats, confirmation of whether habitats have been degraded and of the presence of irreplaceable habitats.

New pre-commencement conditions

The Biodiversity Gain Plan, which must be submitted to discharge the biodiversity net gain condition, cannot be formally submitted until the day after planning permission is granted. This is the case even if all BNG is to be provided onsite as part of the scheme. It will be subject to the usual target timescale for the determination of discharge of condition applications.

Non-negotiable requirement

It is not possible to seek to vary permissions to remove the BNG condition. 

Transitional arrangements for Reserved Matters and Section 73 permissions

The BNG condition won’t apply to:

  • Section 73 permissions where the original permission to which the S73 relates was either granted or made before the implementation date; or
  • Reserved matters approvals where the outline permission was made prior to the implementation date.

Programme Implications

The BNG requirement has the potential to prolong the programme for preparation, submission and determination of planning applications – the BNG pre-commencement condition will also need to be discharged before you can start works on-site. 

Planning advice

The biodiversity net gain requirement is new for everyone, and getting an understanding of what this means for your development in terms of timescales and budget is important. 

Please get in touch to discuss how we can support you with your planning requirements.

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