BPF calls for reformed BNG regulations

Calls to reform the planning system, highlighted in the BPF 2024 Election Manifesto ‘Building our Future’, comes days before the new mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations are introduced.

Buildings and green balconies - ESG | BPF | BTR News

Membership organisation the British Property Federation (BPF) has announced that it is calling for a new long-term approach to resourcing the planning system, to ensure that local authorities have the capacity and capability to deliver BNG effectively.

BNG is a way of creating and improving natural habitats. It aims to make sure that new developments have a measurably positive impact on biodiversity, compared to what was there before development. It will be implemented through the planning system.

A new mandatory planning condition will require developers to submit biodiversity gain plans, and secure approval before new developments can commence. As part of this, developers will need to demonstrate that they will deliver biodiversity net gains of at least 10% and maintain this for 30 years or more. These gains can be delivered on-site, off-site, by purchasing BNG credits from Natural England, or by a combination of these.

“The property sector has a huge role to play in protecting and restoring nature, and many developers are already delivering BNG across their existing assets and new developments. The new mandatory BNG regulations will place an additional burden on already over-stretched local authority planning departments. This is why we are calling on Government to set out a new long-term strategy for resourcing the planning system to ensure that planning departments have the capacity and capability to deliver on all fronts including on BNG. We will also be closely monitoring the implementation of BNG to understand the impact on development. This will include looking at local authorities’ approach to allowing BNG offsite and to going beyond the 10% BNG minimum and monitoring how the market in BNG units is developing.”

Rob Wall, Assistant Director, British Property Federation

The BPF is concerned that current levels of resource, capacity, and skills within local authorities are not ready to deal with the introduction of BNG. The BPF 2024 Election Manifesto is calling for reform of the planning system to ensure the property sector can deliver its climate change ambitions.

This includes a new approach to resourcing which would involve more Government investment into local authority planning departments, higher fees paid by applicants in return for a better service, and the creation of central talent pools to ensure a more agile and timely response to major applications.

Research published by the Government suggests that only 5% of local planning authorities feel their current ecological resource is adequate to scrutinise all applications that might affect biodiversity, and less than 10% feel that their expertise and resources will be adequate to deliver BNG.