Councils will have to produce new 'nature recovery strategies' as part of biodiversity net gain duties

The government has confirmed that developers will be required to improve biodiversity by ten per cent as part of its new net gain requirements while councils will have to produce new spatial "nature recovery strategies" to support their plan-making duties.

Wetlands at Woodberry Down development in north London. Image by Nick, Flickr
Wetlands at Woodberry Down development in north London. Image by Nick, Flickr

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday published details of how it intends to take forward its biodiversity net gain proposals in a new Environment Bill that was announced at this year’s Spring Statement.

Following a consultationDefra said it intends to introduce a mandatory 10 per cent gain resulting from planning permissions.

It said: "On balance, we believe requiring 10 per cent gain strikes the right balance between ambition, certainty in achieving environmental outcomes, and deliverability and costs for developers.

"Legislation will therefore require development to achieve a 10 per cent net gain for biodiversity."

The government said the legislation will require developers to undertake more mitigation and compensation planning before submitting applications.

In addition, they will be required to report environmental impacts "more clearly and transparently, and submitting fewer inappropriate applications (i.e. those that would show a clear net loss for biodiversity)". 

The government will also explore the potential for planning authorities to offer "paid-for habitat compensation brokering and advice".

It also said it will introduce new duties to support spatial planning for nature through the creation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, covering the whole of England.

It said the strategies will provide evidence to support plan-making, but that "it will continue to be the case that the development plan itself is the principal document at the heart of the planning system, and that planning decisions must be taken in line with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise".

To manage the new process, government said it would continue to engage with planning authorities and umbrella body the Local Government Association through a proposed two-year transistion period.

It said: "The net additional cost of new burdens placed on local authorities through biodiversity net gain will be assessed and funded."

Elsewhere in the document, the government said it would not introduce broad exemptions from delivering biodiversity net gain beyond those already proposed for permitted development and householder applications.

However, it said there will be a "targeted exemption" for brownfield sites that face viability issues and do not contain priority habitats.  

It will also introduce legislation to prevent landowners from degrading habitats before applying for planning permission in order to reduce the uplift burden.

Earlier this week, the government introduced a raft of new revisions to planning guidance, including measures to promote net gain. 

Guidance on the natural environment places a greater emphasis on ways development can enhance biodiversity and the environment - such as drainage areas to create wetlands for birds and amphibians.

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