Make on-site biodiversity gains as a developer

How developers can create and enhance habitat on-site to deliver biodiversity net gain (BNG).

Applies to England

ThisBiodiversity draftnet guidancegain explains what will apply when (BNG) becomesis mandatory.mandatory Wefrom will12 continueFebruary to update this guidance.2024.

Why developers need to make on-site gains 

Under mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation, developers must deliver a10% biodiversityBNG, net gain of 10%, as measured by the statutory biodiversity metric. 

The guidance on this page assumes a development is subject to BNG. BNG

There are 3 ways a developer can achieve 10% BNG

  1. Enhance and restore biodiversity on-site (within the red line boundary of a development site). 

  2. If developers cancannot only achieve partall of their their BNG on-site, on-site, they can deliver through a mixture of on-site and off-site. Developers can either make off-site biodiversity gains on their own land outside the development site, or buy off-site biodiversity units on the market.  

  3. If developers cannot achieve on-site or off-site biodiversityBNG, net gain, they must buy statutory biodiversity credits from the government. This mustshould be a last resort. The government will use the revenue to invest in habitat creation in England.  

You can combine all 3 steps, but must follow the steps in order. This order of steps is called the biodiversity gain hierarchy

This guidance is about step 1 – how to enhance and restore biodiversity on-site.  

Other work you can count as part of your on-site BNG  

If you’re already creating or enhancing habitat as part of your development, you may be able to count this towards your BNG, as part of your biodiversity metric calculation. The same rules on what you can count apply across both on-site and off-site BNG.  

Depending on the scheme, it may only count in part towards your BNG or it may count in full. There is more information available on what you can count towards a development’s BNG

The rules that apply to on-site BNG 

In general, the same requirements apply whether you are doing on-site or off-site BNG.  

On-site and off-site requirements that are the same  

Whether you are relying on on-site or off-site,off-site developershabitat must: enhancements, you must:

Differences between on-site and off-site rules: legal agreements and 30 years of maintenance 

There may be differences to developers’ obligations when delivering on-site as opposed to off-site BNG, in relation to: 

These obligations are mandatory for off-site BNG but only mandatory on-site for ‘significant’ on-site habitat enhancements. 

On-site developments can be subject to planning conditions from local planning authorities (LPAs), as well as legal agreements.

Off-site (Off-site gains are only subject to legal agreements, not planning conditions.)  conditions.

Significant on-site enhancements 

Significant enhancements are areas of habitat enhancement which contribute significantly to the proposed development’s biodiversityBNG, net gain relative to the biodiversity value before development.

Retention of existing habitat does not count as an on-site enhancement.

What counts as a significant enhancement will vary depending on the scale of development and existing habitat, but these would normally be: 

  • habitats of medium or higher distinctiveness in the biodiversity metric 
  • habitats of low distinctiveness which create a large number of biodiversity units relative to the biodiversity value of the site before development
  • habitat creation or enhancement where distinctiveness is increased relative to the distinctiveness of the habitat before development  
  • areas of habitat creation or enhancement which are significant in area relative to the size of the development  
  • enhancements to habitat condition, for example from poor or moderate to good  

Examples of significant enhancements include creating a wildlifewildflower pondmeadow or a nature park. 

The maintenance of these significant enhancements must be secured with a legal agreement (planning condition, planning obligation or conservation covenant) or planning condition for 30 years in the same way as off-site gains. gains. LPAs will will consider the most appropriate mechanism and this will need to be agreed at the planning permission stage.  stage.

LPAs may also require legal agreements for wider planning policy reasons for other on-site enhancements or retained habitats which do not fall into the ‘significant enhancements’ category,category. forFor exampleexample, where these are expected to contribute to locally important species or ecological networks. Examples include amenity planting areas or individual street trees which may be significant depending on circumstances. Check with your LPA for more guidance or a local plan which explains any local requirements. 

Non-significant enhancements 

Non-significant enhancements are habitat enhancements thatwhose loss will benot includedsignificantly decrease inthe yourdevelopment’s metricbiodiversity calculations,value. butThey thatshould willstill notbe makeincluded ain significantyour differencemetric to the development’s biodiversity value.calculations.

Examples could include private gardens (such as for new homes) which have a low distinctiveness value, or container planting. These enhancements do not normally require maintenance provisions, so for non-significant enhancements, you do not need to have an HMMP, legal agreement or commitment to maintain them for 30 years.  

Selling excess significant on-site gains 

If you make significant on-site gains in excess of the mandatory 10% BNG, you can count these towards another development’s BNG. This could be another of your own developments, or any other development.     

Example: a developer achieves 20% significant on-site BNG. This is in excess of the required 10% BNG

Where there are local policies requiring more than 10% BNG, you may need to follow these, for example if an LPA requires 20% BNG, a developer can only sell the excess above 20%.  

To count towards another development, excess on-site enhancements should be significant habitat enhancements, and need to be proposed during the planning application process.  

If you intend to use excess on-site enhancements from a development for another development, they should be treated as off-site gains for the development that they are counted towards. All the other development’s requirements for making off-site gains must be met, including: 

  • securing with a legal agreement 

  • registration in the biodiversity gain sites register 
  • allocation to the other development   
  • identifying the enhancements in the biodiversity gain plan for the other development 

Significant on-site gains must be subject to a planning condition, planning obligation or conservation covenant. When selling significant excess on-site gains, one planning obligation or conservation covenant may fulfil the need to secure significant on-site gains and the other development’s need tofor legallyoff-site securegains off-siteto gains. be legally secured. 

How to plan for BNG on-site 

Project design for BNG  

When designing on-site habitat creation and enhancement, you’ll need to consider whether it will be possible to maintain and monitor the habitat over 30 years. You may need to consult a competent person with appropriate training and experience in habitat identification, creation and management, who can advise on what BNG creation or enhancements will be feasible on your site. This could be an ecologist or landscaping professional, for example.  

Examples of questions to consider include: 

  • will soil conditions be suitable for your plans? 
  • will there be an access point for equipment needed to maintain the habitat, such as a mower? 
  • how might pets living on the development affect your plans? 
  • is this plant species suitable for the local area? 

It is important that the plants and trees used to deliver your BNG are free from pests and diseases. Source plants and trees from reputable nurseries or suppliers with plant health management standards in place, for example, nurseries with Plant Healthy certification or similar.   

You should take into account the following conditions which could impact on your BNG plans:  

  • climate  
  • geology and topography  
  • agricultural land status  
  • soils and substrates  
  • contaminated land  
  • hydrology and drainage  
  • flood risk zones  
  • landscape character and designations  
  • biosecurity 
  • invasive plant species 

If you plan tree planting, you may consider:  

Use the metric and submit a biodiversity gain plan 

Follow the guidance for: 

To find out if you can meet some or all of your total BNG on-site, do a survey  of habitat before development and use the statutory biodiversity metric to calculate the biodiversity value of your site, before and after development. You must include all planned on-site gains as part of your calculation. You can try out different site layouts using the metric to achieve higher on-site gains.  

If you’re confident you can meet your BNG wholly on-site, complete your biodiversity gain plan using the template and submit it to your LPA, including your metric calculation (and, if making significant on-site gains, your HMMP and legal agreement). In the gain plan, clarify you can meet your total BNG on site.  

If you can only partially meet your BNG on-site, or cannot meet BNG on-site at all, explore off-site options using the statutory biodiversity metric tool. For example, recalculate using the metric tool to see how to achieve all your BNG using a combination of on-site and off-site. Then complete the biodiversity gain plan using the template and submit it to your LPA, with your final metric calculation (and, if making significant on-site gains, your HMMP and legal agreement).  

Include all your planned enhancements in the biodiversity gain plan.  Your site designs and HMMP should show the LPA how you will fund, maintain and monitor enhancements for 30 years. 

You can find your LPA

Manage on-site BNG and monitor the habitat 

Once the LPA has approved your gain plan and you have any legal agreements and planning permissions in place, you as the landowner are responsible for doing the habitat creation, enhancement and management work to deliver BNG on-site as set out in your plans. This work should start as soon as possible or at least within 12 months of the development commencing. You are also responsible for monitoring and reporting on this to the LPA.  

Best practice guidelines for on-site BNG 

British Standards 8683 - Process for designing and implementing biodiversity net gainBNG, from the British Standards Institution (BSI). There is a cost to buy this for non-BSI members. 

Guidance for local planning authorities (LPAs

There is more information for LPAs.LPAs.

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Published 29 November 2023
Last updated 12 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated box at top of page to state that biodiversity net gain (BNG) is mandatory from 12 February 2024 and removed the 'draft guidance' label. Made changes throughout, including clarifying that excess on-site gains sold do not need to be 'significant'.

  2. First published.