DEFRA Delays Biodiversity Net Gain Rules Amidst Environmental Concerns.

In a statement released by DEFRA on Wednesday 27th September, the Government confirmed its intention to delay the introduction of new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) rules from November 2023 to January 2024.

In short, the rules will require any developer of a site to undertake works that leave biodiversity in a measurably better state than beforehand and contribute to nature’s recovery. This is a ‘net change’, so not only must a developer replace the lost habitat and biodiversity as part of the development, but they must also deliver new habitat value that is at least 10% greater than that which has been lost. 

In practice, this can involve, for example, planting woodland on land previously used for growing food such as arable land, or by entering into an agreement with a third party to either take land out of agricultural production or changing management practices, to improve the habitat quality and increase biodiversity value.

Developers, which includes farmers looking to construct, say, a new farm building on agricultural land, have been somewhat in the dark as to the exact requirements they will have to comply with in relation to the proposed BNG rules, and the delay to the introduction of the rules also includes a delay to the publication of the statutory calculator for working out net change in biodiversity across sites.

The delay comes at a time when the Government is finding itself under increasing fire, following proposals to effectively throw out many of the planned Nutrient Neutrality requirements, which require new developments to not adversely affect water quality (which has subsequently been defeated in the House of Lords), as well as other delays to national environmental objectives that have been well publicised by the media.

Improving the quality of habitats and biodiversity across the country can only be a positive move, and one that should be supported, particularly considering the UK is deemed to be amongst the most nature-depleted countries on Earth and is thought to still be declining, as concluded in the 2023 State of Nature report, published on 28th September. But this can only be on the basis that the relevant legislation and schemes are fit for purpose and provide the required clarity for all parties involved in any proposed development.

However, at the same time we find ourselves in a world of ever-competing land uses; food security hasn’t been as important since the Second World War; renewable energy generation is increasing its move up the agenda in support of climate targets; and further countryside is being taken in for housebuilding to meet housing targets under Local Development Plans.

One starts to wonder, which one of these land uses will begin to lose the race for Priority #1?’

For more information on BNG rules and how they may impact land development and management, contact myself on 0191 370 8530 or [email protected] , or consider joining us at one of our Rural Roadshow events being held in November, at various locations across the north of England. Please see our website for more details.

With offices in Durham, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Kendal, Northallerton and Penrith, we are one of the North’s leading Chartered Surveyors, Estate and Letting Agents, and Valuers. Our dedicated professional teams, provide a comprehensive range of professional farm, land and forestry management expertise, to meet the demands of changing policy and emerging opportunities with the rural sectors.