The Government has delayed the implementation of mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) to an unspecified date in January 2024. The delay comes 7 months after the original announcement that BNG would become a mandatory requirement in November 2023. The Government’s press release says that the BNG guidance and implementing regulations will be published by the end of November “to effectively implement Biodiversity Net Gain in January 2024” (their split infinitive, not ours!).
It seems that the small sites metric is still planned for roll-out in April 2024.
The delay raises the question of who is not ready for BNG: developers, ecologists, Natural England or local planning authorities? We here have been planning for it for most of this year and are ready whenever everyone else has played catch-up.
Meanwhile, we have picked up on this related story that “more than 15,000 hectares of natural habitats will be created in England each year following the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations” which is said to equate to 23,500 football pitches per year. In other words, after 5 years, a new area greater than the size of the Exmoor National Park would be permanently dedicated to natural habitats. Over the next 50 years that equates to 20% of the current total area of cropped agricultural land. The estimate may, of course, be wildly wrong but, even if it is out by a significant margin, it suggests that it is going to be extremely challenging for all parties to deliver and manage permanent land use change at this scale – particularly if it is going to involve taking large areas of productive agricultural land out of food production.