The target for built environment companies to achieve biodiversity net gains at sites has been pushed back until next year, the UK Government has announced.
At the start of this year, the UK Government confirmed that developers will need to achieve 10% biodiversity net-gain (BNG) at all large domestic, commercial and mixed-use sites from this November after its introduction as part of the Environment Act in 2021.
Now that date has been delayed until January 2024 in a move which follows on from the Prime Minister’s decision to row back on other net zero commitment deadlines.
BNG for small sites will be applicable from April 2024, and implementation for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects is planned for 2025.
The UK Green Buildings Council’s deputy chief executive Simon McWhirter said: “This is yet another blow to sustainable development and risks undermining national efforts to put the collapse of nature into reverse. Responsible developers large and small have been gearing up for this change for years, with many of our members creating dedicated jobs to deliver net gain from in-house consultants to designers, landscape architects and creative project leads. This will be exceptionally damaging for their projected work pipelines, investment, supply chains, and related job roles.
“As for the rollback on carbon policy last week, the industry needs certainty clarity and commitment in order to facilitate green investment and continue to make progress. Biodiversity net gain is no exception. The policy is essential for delivering our sector’s role in reversing nature’s decline and should not be delayed any further.”
Syntegra Managing Director Alan King said: “Despite the fact the BNG target has been delayed, we are advising all our clients to act as if it remains in place and consider how they can increase biodiversity on their sites.
“It is vital to our role in tackling the climate crisis and we see no reason why companies should drag their heels over trying to achieve these gains.
“Improving biodiversity should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a challenge and we will continue to advise clients on appropriate solutions.”
The UK’s post-Brexit environment watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), has continuously warned that the nation is set to miss all of its key nature and environment policy targets.
The Wildlife and Countryside Link’s chief executive Dr Richard Benwell said: “Net gain has already been pared back to the bare minimum to offset the habitat harm caused by new development. For the market to help fund nature recovery, Local Authorities need the confidence to go beyond 10% gain and the means to monitor high standards of delivery. Many Authorities realise that going beyond the minimum is fundamental for nature and climate plans, but lack the resources and evidence they need”.
“Delays and further exemptions could strike at the foundations of this emerging market. This is especially true alongside the spate of delays and reversals in environmental policy, from net zero plans to attempts to weaken protection for rivers. Instead, Government should expedite net gain regulations, support Local Authorities that want to go beyond the statutory minimum, and dedicate further funding for the ecological experts needed to inform and enforce the policy.”