BNG Plans in Merseyside

A significant percentage of development projects in Merseyside are now subjected to the stipulations of biodiversity net gain. Appease the local authorities and strengthen applications for planning permission with a BNG plan.

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Abiding by the Biodiversity Net Gain Mandate

As of January 2024, it has been a legal requirement to adhere to biodiversity net gain (BNG) if it applies to the development in question. Certain other types of development were exempt before another biodiversity metric in April 2024 opened up opportunities for them to be given the same level of scrutiny. It took time for mandatory BNG to come into power, however, with a two-year transition period and numerous delays prior to the start of 2024.

Unveiled as part of the Environment Act 2021, the BNG process sees the developer required to increase the current biodiversity value of their development site upon completion. The local environment would not only retain the same standard as before the planning project but actually go on to improve by a measurably better state, reaching at least a 10% net gain. Ignoring the need to initiate BNG isn’t possible either, as the outcome will form the basis for planning applications.

Formerly split between the local authorities of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Liverpool City Council, Merseyside County Council, Prescot Town Council, Sefton Council, St Helens Council and Wirral Council, the county now has coverage from the accumulative Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA). As such, any developers in the area will need to comply with the LCRCA if the biodiversity net gain policy is likely to apply to their development.

Rural Parts of the Merseyside Area

Due to the presence of the City of Liverpool and various towns in the likes of Bebington, Birkenhead, Bootle, Crosby, Huyton, Southport, St Helens and Wallasey, Merseyside is classed as largely urban throughout. Continuous expansion in the area has seen the county grow into an even more developed area, leaving all remaining greenfield plots of land in a highly desirable position and brownfield land as a tempting backup option.

Even though it isn’t anywhere near being the greenest part of England, protected species still occupy various parts of Merseyside. To cover the entirety of the county, a number of wildlife trusts offer protection over wildlife habitats, including the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Wirral Wildlife Trust and the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. Among the protected species with proven presence in Merseyside are badgers, barn owls, bats, great crested newts, natterjack toads, red squirrels and water voles. Catering to all of them and any other ecological features correctly and sufficiently enhancing biodiversity will require a biodiversity net gain plan.

Planned Inspections of Biodiversity Quality

New developments where BNG applies will need to go through a biodiversity net gain assessment to analyse the current and predicted state of the natural environment. Certain projects such as house extensions may be exempt, but it is advised to check before inadvertently breaching the rules. As a starting point, the ecologist will review any existing information via a prior desk study, consulting local communities and wildlife groups if other guidance is needed.

The BNG assessment will then move on to an advanced inspection of the development site, where each priority habitat will be noted and combined to work out the pre-development value. Based on the plans of the development project, a secondary post-development value will be predicted. The two results can be compared to distinguish any gap that needs to be removed before building on it by an additional 10% increase using mitigation and compensation measures.

It is always hoped that it will be possible to initiate on-site changes to support planning projects with biodiversity net gain. If, however, this isn’t viable, a last resort option would be to refer to biodiversity offsetting to meet the mandate off-site. Applicable sites on the BNG market allow developers to purchase the required quantity of biodiversity units as credits away from the site. Whatever the outcome, the biodiversity gain plan will contain all of the information and results from the survey, helping to ease local planning authorities with the decision to grant or deny applications for planning permission.

Receive Advice from Our Team

From the entirety of Merseyside to all parts of Greater Manchester and other sections of North West England, our team is equipped and available to support minor and major developments in moving smoothly through the planning system. We also incorporate any other considerations such as local nature recovery and local or national policy, ensuring nothing is ignored or disregarded on the way to appeasing the local councils.

If you are at the planning stage of a new development situated in the Merseyside area, contact our team and we will send you a free quote using your unique details. Either fill out a quote form, call us or email us, and one of our BNG consultants will be able to provide evidence of adherence to biodiversity net gain in a thorough BNG plan and leave your planning officer with no reason to reject your planning application.