UK Green Building Council says exemption risks 100,000 developments a year not providing for nature


Developers will have to provide 10% ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ to improve wildlife habitats of sites

Thousands of developments are to be left out of rules that will require developers in England to improve habitats on building sites. 

Most developers will have to detail in planning applications how they intend to avoid loss and create new habitats on building sites from November this year, government guidance published earlier this week confirmed. They will have to provide a 10% ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ (BNG) - or positive benefit for nature.  

But builders of smaller sites will have until April next year to “give them more time to prepare and apply best practice from activity on major development sites”, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said.

Smaller sites are defined as under 10 homes where the site is under one hectare, or on plots of 0.5 hectares where the number of homes is not known. 

The new rules came in the government’s response to its consultation on how to implement the biodiversity net gain policy mandated under the 2021 Environment Act, which said the policy must be brought in by autumn 2023.

But Simon McWhirter, UK Green Building Council’s director of communications, policy and places, said extending the transition period for small sites meant the government risked “removing up to 100,000 developments a year from the scope of biodiversity regulations”. 

This could mean “impeding nature’s recovery instead of supporting the industry with the clear, stable demand”, he added. 

Environment secretary Therese Coffey said: “Biodiversity Net Gain will ensure new developments work for both wildlife and people by creating nature-rich places whilst ensuring that communities get the new homes they need.

“We will continue to support and work with developers and planning authorities ahead of the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain.”

Councils will have to approve BNG plans before any development work can start on sites.  Under the plans, builders will have to create new habitats on or off-site, or when they can not do this, as a last resort, buy statutory credits from the government and pay for improvements on other sites.

BNG rules will apply to all new housing, commercial and infrastructure developments. The initiative is part of the government’s aim to halt and reverse species decline by 2030.