The BBC has reported this morning (27 September) that the government will be announcing a delay to the implementation date for mandatory biodiversity net gain. This had been due to kick in from November this year but reports suggest that, while the government remains committed to the policy, the new implementation date will not be before the end of 2023.
Biodiversity net gain or “BNG” is the idea that developments must leave the environment in a better state than it was pre-development. It is given statutory footing in the Environment Act 2021. The BNG provisions in the Environment Act are not yet in force but, when they are, they will enshrine a new requirement in planning law that requires most developers to demonstrate that they will achieve a net gain of 10% in biodiversity when developing a site, in order for the proposed development to receive planning permission.
Further regulations and guidance on precisely how the BNG requirements will operate are still outstanding so, with only a month to run until the current implementation date, a delay had been looking increasingly likely. This will come as a relief for a number of those grappling to get to grips with the scheme. However, for others, a delay will be understandably frustrating – whether because they have already been investing in meeting BNG requirements or capitalising on opportunities presented by this area of the natural capital market, or more fundamentally because they see this as another blow to the sustainability agenda following the recent announcements regarding attempts by the government to remove nutrient neutrality requirements and row back on some areas of net zero policy.
The imminent arrival of BNG has been driving activity in the natural capital market. This market is still young and certainty on the nature and timing of BNG requirements is needed to give confidence to participants and investors. We do not see this latest development as changing the fundamental direction of travel towards BNG and hope the government will use the period running up to the new implementation date to plug the gaps in the current formulation of the scheme.
If you would like support with navigating the implications of these changes, please get in touch with Sarah Sackville Hamilton.
"We are fully committed to biodiversity net gain which will have benefits for people and nature. We will set out more details on implementation timings shortly."