Defra sets out new timetable with BNG to be brought in from next January

The government has confirmed a two month delay to its plans to bring in rules to force developers to improve biodiversity on all sites they redevelop.

An announcement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday afternoon confirmed leaked reports that the government was delaying the introduction of the mandate to deliver 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on all sites, contained in the 2021 Environment Act.

Defra said that under its “updated timetable”, developers will be required to deliver 10% net gain on sites from January 2024, despite the Environment Act stipulating the mandate should be brought in from November 2023.

Trudy Harrison Portrait

Trudy Harrison said the delay would help with the transition to the new rules

It said it will lay the regulations to bring BNG into force in November, adding that the policy will apply to small sites from next April and to National Significant Infrastructure Projects from 2025.

The department also confirmed that a series of outstanding regulations and guidance required to allow the system of BNG to operate will be published in full by the end of November. The government said these publications include:

  • The statutory biodiversity metric, which is used to calculate the correct biodiversity gain
  • The draft biodiversity gain plan template, on which developers will set out what they will need to complete during the planning application stages
  • The Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan template, which will set out how the improved significant on-site and off-site habitats will be managed
  • Biodiversity Net Gain guidance with advice for landowners, developers and Local Planning Authorities in delivering mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain

Defa said that developers and planning authorities should use the additional time to familiarise themselves with the guidance and prepare for the integration of Biodiversity Net Gain into the planning system. Trudy Harrison, biodiversity minister, said the updated timetable and guidance would “help smooth the transition” ahead of the Biodiversity Net Gain going fully live in January 2024.

But Gillian Charlesworth, chief executive of the Building Research Establishment, said that following last week’s decisions to drop energy efficiency targets in the Private Rented Sector, delays to the phasing out of fossil fuel boilers and the abolition of the Energy Efficiency Task Force, this latest news marked a “deeply concerning trend” in government policy.

She said: “More and faster, not less and slower, action is needed if we are to meet our 2050 goals. Our industry has been working hard to prepare for the inclusion of mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain rules and the reported delays threaten to cause prolonged uncertainty for some major projects – and the loss of habitats which would otherwise be developed.”

Housebuilder Bellway’s group head of biodiversity, Neil Beamsley, said his firm was committed to BNG and that the delay was a source of “significant concern”.

He added: “We remain committed to supporting the roll-out of BNG through our work with colleagues at the Future Homes Hub and will continue to offer support and insight to colleagues in government, to ensure BNG works for all parties and makes the positive impact that we all wish to see.”