Biodiversity | ~ 3 min read

Biodiversity gains ground in England

Since February, developers in England have been required to deliver a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain from new housing, industrial, or commercial developments.

Following the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) in England earlier this year, developers are required to achieve measurable improvements natural habitats when undertaking development projects.

These improvements can be onsite or elsewhere in England, providing large landowners an opportunity to offer biodiversity enhancement projects on unused land.

The biodiversity gain must be protected and maintained for at least 30 years. If developers are unable to achieve a BNG from their project, they can buy biodiversity credits instead.

How is BNG assessed?

The new regulation requires a minimum 10% improvement in England. UK government advisory body, Natural England has developed a statutory biodiversity metric to assess units of biodiversity. This considers several criteria including size, condition, type, and strategic significance of the site.

The BNG is calculated by assessing the units created or enhanced by the new project, then deducting the units derived from harm to local biodiversity.

For created or enhanced habitats, further inputs are included, such as time for a habitat to achieve a targeted condition, and distance from the original project.

This approach is specific to England, and a different system operates in the other UK nations.

What is the impact?

The regulation now applies to all major developments, including smaller sites, while national infrastructure projects will have to comply from November 2025. Small custom-built habitations, such as homes built by individuals on their own land, are excluded.

The primary impact will be on professional property developers in England, where the BNG will be reviewed by local planning authorities and approved or rejected based on net gain. Developers will likely have to onboard specific ecological expertise, and adopt necessary measurement systems.

Our view?

This is an interesting, ambitious, and innovative development in England, which forces developers to fully integrate biodiversity into project planning. There are, however questions about using a one-size-fits-all quantitative indicator for biodiversity which may be better addressed with qualitative measures. Another issue is whether the 10% target is sufficient, given the volume of property developments and the ongoing level of ecosystem degradation in England.

But with England becoming the first country in the world to make BNG a legal requirement, it could pave the way for similar moves elsewhere.

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