BNG Plans in Bedfordshire

All over England, developers will be affected by the biodiversity net gain policy. As for planning projects in Bedfordshire, a BNG plan will be a requirement that will bypass any issues with applications for a planning condition.

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Integration of BNG in Development

Immediately after receiving royal assent in November 2021, the Environment Bill became the Environment Act, and all policies within it – such as biodiversity net gain (BNG) – became applicable aspects of UK law. The concept of BNG impacts a significant percentage of land and property developments, insisting on biodiversity enhancement of the development site after the project compared to before by a minimum of 10% and for a period lasting at least 30 years.

For BNG to be successful, measurements need to be taken to reflect the current state of the development site and the predicted condition after the project is complete. The two measurements can then be used to distinguish the deficit between the two, identify what’s needed to bridge the gap and build upon it by an additional 10%, and capably meet the parameters of BNG. From February 2024, local councils were instructed that biodiversity net gain would be used as a condition of applications for planning permission, but even before then, they were given the ability to enforce it without justification.

Both local authorities and local community groups all over the county including the overarching Central Bedfordshire Council and the local wildlife trust demonstrate a concern for climate change. As well as through local plans and neighbourhood plans, initiatives intended to benefit the environment include native shrub planting, monitoring of pollution to air quality caused by the emissions of general motors, the creation of bee-friendly hotels and hedgehog highways, safeguarding over existing woodland and species-rich grassland, and even an award-winning housing development in Chaul End called the BIG Biodiversity Challenge that saw the implementation of environmentally-friendly elements. With this in mind, developers are bound to face scrutiny over any planning projects that could contradict the BNG policy.

Bedfordshire’s Authentic Natural Environment

Around half of the land area in Bedfordshire is set aside for agriculture, equating to 30% of the county being classed as rural. Specifically looking at parts of Bedfordshire that are protected, the county has eight hectares of green public open space, 20 local nature reserves (LNRs), 3 national nature reserves (NNRs), 225 parks, national parks and playgrounds, 77 sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the form of the Chiltern Hills area.

Instead of a responsible body solely overlooking the county in isolation, Bedfordshire is protected in tandem with Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire by the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants. Alongside numerous plants that are considered rare or invasive, protected species in Bedfordshire include adders, bats, brown hares, harvest mice, grass snakes, great crested newts, hedgehogs, common lizards, otters, polecats and common toads.

In a location with a mix of urban and rural areas such as Bedfordshire, satisfactory regulation and management from responsible bodies and local authorities is crucial. Adequate protection over green areas and natural features ensures the retention of valuable environmental quality and demonstrates compliance with biodiversity net gain (BNG). That said, meeting the requirements of the policy is understandably seen as an obstacle in the eyes of developers.

Meeting BNG Requirements On-Site and Off-Site

A biodiversity net gain plan is an unavoidable component needed to meet the stipulations of BNG and appease the local authority. Over planned site visits, an ecologist would attend the development site for a form of ecological survey that calculates current and expected biodiversity value. Both figures can then be compared with each other to identify any gap between them that needs to be eliminated and built upon by a further 10%.

Under the pre-existing mitigation hierarchy, decisions will be made to satisfy biodiversity net gain for many years and leave the development site in a great place from the perspective of the local council. Although reducing biodiversity loss and increasing net gains where possible will always act as the priority outcome, mitigation methods are often needed to make up for any unavoidable losses and find solutions that will inevitably benefit biodiversity value.

Whenever the new development plans cannot be altered to reach the intended 10% increase in biodiversity, an alternative approach will see the ecological consultant achieve the enhancement by purchasing biodiversity units for offsetting elsewhere. All of the information from the assessment and the eventual outcomes are detailed in a BNG plan – a management plan that offers similar insights to an ecology report but with an emphasis on meeting the targets of biodiversity net gain, specifically for planning applications to local planning authorities located in the Bedfordshire area.

Reach Out for a Quote Today

From construction sites that are used for commercial developments, to a brownfield site that is being turned into a children’s play area, or a simple private property development, for example, the BNG policy can have an effect on any number of planning projects. That’s why it is important that you put your faith into a consultancy with experienced, trained and qualified ecological surveyors such as ours. We are available all over the country and can make all of the necessary moves to meet the needs of your local council, whether it’s Central Bedfordshire Council, Bedford Borough Council or any other local authority.

To get the ball rolling, fill out our quote form online, call one of our team directly or visit our contact page for a run-down of all our communication options. At this stage, we would advise giving us as much information about your development site and project as possible so we can provide you with a free quote that is reflective of these details. One of our team can then visit your site on a day that works for you, carry out the assessment, produce a BNG plan, and enable you to be granted planning consent.