Leveraging biodiversity net gain: the role of adaptive management software
How ready is your planning department for the impending biodiversity net gain (BNG) changes? Alison Cameron, CMSi Business Development Consultant at Idox, explains the critical success factors for successful long-term BNG reporting and how our software and partners can help transform your approach to achieving critical biodiversity and environmental goals.
Understanding biodiversity net gain
The preservation and enhancement of biodiversity and the environment are paramount to sustainable development. The Environment Act 2021 amended the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, requiring planning authorities in England to ensure delivery of a minimum 10% BNG. This signifies a transformative shift in land management practices by advocating a quantifiable and demonstrable increase in biodiversity within development projects.
BNG will become a statutory requirement when the secondary legislation passes through parliament. It will initially apply to ‘large planning development sites’ from February 2024 for sites granted planning permission under the UK Town and Country Planning Act. BNG will apply to small development sites from April 2024 and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) from late 2025. BNG is a pre-commencement condition so a BNG plan must be approved by the planning authority before development begins.
BNG is to be achieved by safeguarding ecosystems, promoting resilience by mitigating biodiversity loss, and enhancing ecosystem services. The long-term goals of BNG include improving ecological health, improving community well-being, and creating a thriving natural environment.
Challenges faced by local planning authorities in setting BNG plans
Local planning authorities (LPAs) require access to appropriate data, systems, and processes to set BNG targets within their local plans. They also need systems to assess and evaluate BNG submissions, agree how BNG units will be secured (via conservation covenants and S106 agreements), monitor outcomes, and apply necessary enforcement.
One important stipulation of the new regulations means LPAs must monitor and report on BNG outcomes over a minimum 30-year period. A requirement of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, information reporting will include scale and losses of planned versus actual outcomes, qualitative and quantitative reporting on actions taken by an authority, and plans for the future.
To achieve this, planning authorities require IT systems with a geospatial component for mapping BNG baselines, goals and outcomes. Data impacting biodiversity and the environment may be of local, regional, national, or global significance.
Critical success factors for successful long-term BNG reporting
Effective long-term BNG reporting will require a reliable, comprehensive, and multi-faceted approach. It will be necessary to continuously integrate and securely manage large volumes of data spanning several decades to get an accurate view of an ever-evolving natural environment.