BNG Plans in Buckinghamshire

With the introduction of BNG, biodiversity net gain requirements will affect all developments in Buckinghamshire, barring a handful of exceptions. Developers are given the option of simplifying the process and meeting the demands of Buckinghamshire Council by receiving guidance through a BNG plan.

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Acting in Accordance with Biodiversity Net Gain

Brought in as a new national planning policy intended to focus attention to the natural environment in development proposals all over the country, biodiversity net gain (BNG) was sanctioned as part of the Environment Act back when it became a part of UK law in November 2021. It enforces a rule to guarantee that the ecological standard of development sites within planning projects maintain the same level of quality before increasing to a better state by a minimum 10% rise.

The concept of BNG works in the planning system by concluding on two measurements of the site: one based on the current standard of the site before the project and one predicting the expected standard of the site after the project. An ecologist would record both figures and compare them to work out the deficit between the two and what further changes need to be initiated to meet the 10% net gains of biodiversity.

Not only will the local council insist upon demonstratable evidence of compliance to the national policy, but without it, applications for planning permission will not be granted. Local authorities in England were given a decision over whether or not to insist on BNG straight away, with it becoming mandatory nationwide from February 2024. Buckinghamshire Council are included in this, and as a result, developers in the corresponding area are required to display adherence to the policy.

The State of Buckinghamshire Ecology

As with many of the counties in South East England, the county of Buckinghamshire is first and foremost rural, even featuring an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Chiltern Hills. More specifically, Buckinghamshire consists of 63% farmland areas, and despite containing high-quality habitats belonging to a rich variety of wildlife in 13% of the county, only a mere 5.5% of it has been provided with a level of formal designated site protection.

Listed protected species with proven occupancy in Buckinghamshire include adders, badgers, bats, dormice, great crested newts, otters and water voles. Both in terms of animals and plants, local wildlife are protected by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, with the trust and the local council collaborating on the emergence of impactful initiatives – such as biodiversity net gain – to ensure that valuable or rare ecological features and green areas are safeguarded.

Gauging Biodiversity Value and Necessary Mitigation

For developers to suitably meet biodiversity net gain requirements and any corresponding policies and guidance such as the supplementary planning document from the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership following public consultation, Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and Local Plans (such as the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan), and the latest version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a biodiversity net gain plan will be needed. It requires an ecologist to attend the development site and look over all ecological features, using present elements to produce an accurate biodiversity value prior to the development.

Through looking over development plans and holding extensive conversations with the developer, the ecological consultant can create an understanding of how the site will look after the planning project for a post-development biodiversity reading. Any gap between the two measurements will be addressed using the mitigation hierarchy on existing elements, biodiversity losses will be compensated for, biodiversity offsets will be enacted, and the 10% increase will be met using the introduction of new additions to the site that will enhance overall ecological value.

Using the mitigation hierarchy, retention of valuable animal and plant habitats will always reign as the priority outcome, but if it isn’t possible, the ecological surveyor will be forced to minimise impacts, restore other parts of the site, or compensate by meeting the requirements on offset sites. To achieve BNG, the ecologist can even arrange for biodiversity units to be purchased off-site as a last resort if the 10% increase is not feasible on-site. A BNG plan can then be created after the assessment to detail how biodiversity losses will be offset and the 10% increase will be reached, coinciding with the planning application.

Speak to Our Expert Team About BNG

Via our in-house team of licensed, educated and experienced ecologists, each and every biodiversity net gain plan is formulated at the best possible standard. That way, developers can receive the support they need to prevent net loss, retain biodiversity value and increase the standard of the site, while the local planning authority has all of the information they would like before considering granting an application of planning permission.

In an effort to only make clients pay what’s required, we price up each quote individually based on the unique specifications of the project and site. Simply reach out to us through our contact page or by calling us or filling out our quote form, and we will pass on a free quote for you to look over. From there, we can plan a suitable date to attend your site, carry out a full inspection and help you to avoid biodiversity loss, qualify for BNG, and appease the local council in the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes area.