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Why should developers plan ahead for BNG?

By law, developers now need to legally deliver 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on all sites and projects in England and maintain this for at least 30 years. Moving from a position of no net loss to providing net gain is crucial in tackling biodiversity loss and climate change.

In a recent article published by New Civil Engineer, Hannah Knight explains why developers should plan ahead.

24 March 2022 | 4 min read
Hannah Knight
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It's now the law

By making this law, the UK Government is vowing its commitment to clean our air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste and make better use of resources, including helping to transition to a more circular economy.

But for developers, what does this now mean for them, and how can they utilise BNG as an advantage in planning ahead?

Thinking BNG first

For developers, trying to mitigate biodiversity loss and achieve the 10% gain required to secure planning approval can be a challenge.

But if considered from the start, it doesn’t have to be the challenge it first appears. In fact, when addressed early on, it can be a valuable tool in the pursuit of planning permission.

Adopting a BNG approach helps local authorities and developers to deliver high-quality, sustainable developments within their area. An early thought-out approach can only give them a better chance of a planning advantage and a return on investment, which is the end goal for any development or project.

Prioritising wellbeing and quality of life

Prioritising people’s wellbeing and quality of life by creating improved high-quality spaces will attract investment into an area and increase the financial value of assets.

By thinking BNG first, developments are more likely to secure additional environmental benefits, such as improved air quality, soil stability, flood management, and adaption to climate change. This is vital for companies seeking to demonstrate the wider value of their projects. It might sound obvious, but leading by example will only boost a company’s reputation, secure a competitive advantage and provide evidence of expertise when tendering for work.

BNG solutions for developers

Depending on what your local authority is asking for, developers will have the option to provide the gain on-site or off-site or buy biodiversity credits from the Government. Onsite delivery of BNG is a simpler process for a developer if it can be achieved. This is helped by green infrastructure, which can deliver a significant number of credits to a scheme.

Going green, brown, and blue

In urban areas particularly, it can be argued that BNG as a source of income for developers is a lot more beneficial. But with such spatial restrictions on a number of sites, developers might need to think vertically, to gain financially.

In urban logistics for example, sometimes the only way a developer can attain the BNG credits needed is by creating green or brown roof space. Green or brown roofs on the tops of buildings are a very popular and achievable option, alongside green walls.

A green roof is a flat or pitched roof covered with plants, which can be as simple as mats of mosses, Sedum, or a range of grasses and flowering herbs. It creates a habitat for flora and fauna and plays an important part in conservation or enhancing biodiversity, particularly in urban locations.

Environmentally friendly, created using self-seeded plants via wind or birds, a brown roof on the other hand self-populates with wildlife. A biodiverse brown roof involves a mix of seed or planning being introduced which can provide opportunities for different species to green roofs. A combination of both green and brown roofs can increase the habitat diversity of a site.

This carries on to blue infrastructures, such as ponds, wetlands, and water treatment facilities. Creating a green-blue network can drastically improve current environmental conditions on-site, support the green economy, and enhance biodiversity.

The benefits of BNG planning

BNG can potentially impact the financial performance of a site for the better. But this can still be boosted if it’s thought about and introduced earlier on as part of the due diligence process and assessment. Ultimately, the new law gives developers the ability to quantify their habitat creation efforts in a meaningful and easy-to-understand way.

Not all developers will be comfortable with adapting to the legal change. But for many sites, the new rules will make a major difference and deliver a real boost to both wildlife and the liveability of the development. And with developers working more efficiently and placing greater emphasis on thinking about BNG early on, this can only aid a smooth transition and be financially beneficial in the long term.