Even at the height of summer, thoughts of November are mounting. Particularly so if you are interested in biodiversity, as that is when the Biodiversity Net Gain requirements on planning permission will come into force. This will produce a need for BNG to be provided, some of which will be dealt with on-site, and some of which will be off-site.
BNG and the potential demand it might create for rural land has been a massive focus of attention in the last 12 months. It has drowned out discussion about carbon sequestration on land. That is likely to be because it is seen as a reality that is happening now, backed up by statute. Various individuals and bodies are building or laying the groundwork for habitat banks, and working out where they sit in the BNG. Are they going to be developers needing to obtain BNG, providers of land that wil host BNG projects, or Responsible Bodies, monitoring that BNG land?
The Responsible Bodies will be critical to this system getting off the ground, as assuming that Conservation Covenants are used to secure the BNG obligations, Responsible Bodies are an essential component in delivering on them. But, the Conservation Covenant system appears stuck in the sand at the moment, because Responsible Bodies cannot yet apply to be registered as such. And without them, the system does not really work.
We are getting very close to November and the absence of a system for delivering BNG is a cause for concern. It may be that this is all cured by a dramatic rush to the finish, but the absence of the Responsible Body limb at the moment means that there is apprehension as to what will be in place come November.
STOP PRESS: The day after this item was published, the guidance has been released by DEFRA, and they are open for applications to be Responsible Bodies. See Conservation covenants: apply to become a responsible body - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
A conservation covenant ... delivers lasting conservation benefit for the public good. A covenant sets out obligations in respect of the land which will be legally binding not only on the landowner but on subsequent owners of the land.