Woking Borough Council

Guidance on Biodiversity Net Gain

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an approach to development, that leaves biodiversity in a measurably better state than before the development took place.
BNG is additional to existing habitat and species protections. Intended to reinforce the mitigation hierarchy, BNG aims to create new habitat as well as enhance existing habitats, ensuring the ecological connectivity they provide for wildlife is retained and improved
It uses the ecological mitigation hierarchy with a biodiversity metric to measure the impact of development on biodiversity.

 Figure 1: Shows Biodiversity Net Gain (Source NE Brochure)

The Council’s net gain approach
The Environment Act gained ascension in November 2021 and has a two year transition period for its requirements to come into effect. The Act requires a mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) of 10% on development for which Planning permission is granted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (there are a few exemptions). The Council currently has no mechanism to secure the mandatory BNG in advance of the effective date of its introduction and does not have a Local Plan Policy which requires a 10% BNG. However, it is important to note that the current up to date policies of the development highlights the need for biodiversity enhancement as a result of development, which needs to be applied when determining day to day planning applications.

Policy CS7: Biodiversity and Nature Conservation  requires ‘development proposals to contribute to the enhancement of existing biodiversity and geodiversity features and also explore opportunities to create and manage new ones. The policy encourages new development to make positive contribution to biodiversity through the creation of green spaces, where appropriate, and the creation of linkages between sites to create a local and regional biodiversity network of wildlife corridors and green infrastructure. It seeks to retain and encourage the enhancement of significant features of nature conservation value on development sites.’

Policy DM1: Green Infrastructure Opportunities stresses that ‘the provision of new or enhanced green infrastructure assets will be expected to take any reasonable opportunities to connect to, or enhance, the existing Green Infrastructure Network. Particular attention should be given to enhancing the green infrastructure opportunity areas that provides biodiversity benefits such as biodiversity opportunity areas (BOA) identified in Natural Woking: Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure Strategy and by Surrey Nature Partnership. The Council will encourage partnership working in the delivery of new or enhanced green infrastructure’

Policy DM2: Trees and Landscaping ‘require the design, size, species and placement of trees and other landscape features to take practicable opportunities to realise their multifunctional green infrastructure benefits as set out in Natural Woking: Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure Strategy, including: connecting the development site to the surrounding green infrastructure network and wildlife habitats’

These development plan policies provide policy justification to seek biodiversity enhancement on the back of proposed development.

The National Planning Policy Framework (2021) also promotes ‘the conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species; and identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity.’ The NPPF is a material consideration to be fully taken into account when determining planning applications.

The Council’s preference is for Biodiversity enhancements to be provided on site. Where this could not be achieved for justifiable reasons, a financial contribution will be secured through planning obligations to support biodiversity off site. The Council is in the process of making sure that it is ready to introduce the national requirements when it takes effect in 2023.The Council is happy to work in partnership with Developers to enhance biodiversity using the Policies stated above.

Further guidance:
• Natural England’s brochure on net gain
• CIEEM: Biodiversity Net Gain Report and Audit Templates (includes useful templates for Biodiversity Gain & monitoring reporting)
• Planning Advisory Service (PAS) Biodiversity Net Gain FAQs
• DEFRA Biodiversity Metric Download User Guide and Metric
• The Small Sites Metric