OEP advice in response to Biodiversity Net Gain consultation

Proposals to integrate biodiversity net gain into the planning system in England must be strengthened if they are to meet the government’s ambitions to improve the environment.  

We have published here our response to Defra’s consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain regulations and implementation.  

OEP Chair, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: “We very much welcome the ambition and thrust of the proposed approach.  

“But there is a risk, as we see it, that as the proposals stand there will be real challenges around implementation, and the 10% net gain requirement may not be sufficiently ambitious to achieve real improvement to the environment. 

“We have identified a number of areas where we consider that the proposals could be further strengthened so as to better achieve government’s ambitions to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity in this country.” 

Our consultation response makes 11 main recommendations for Defra and Government to consider in developing secondary legislation, policy and guidance. 

It also goes on to consider some of the specific questions within the consultation, making a number of further recommendations in response.  

The OEP’s recommendations include: 

  • Consideration of a higher minimum biodiversity net gain requirement than the 10% proposed 
  • Government considers a single system for terrestrial and marine net gain 
  • Government develops a strong system of governance for biodiversity net gain implementation, monitoring, reporting and enforcement, including publicly available information and regular review. 
  • Adequate resourcing and expertise in put in place, covering both the initial assessment of proposed activities and planning applications, and long-term monitoring, reporting, compliance and enforcement activities of local authorities, Defra, and Natural England. 
  • Only realistic and deliverable biodiversity net gain proposals should be accepted and there is effective, ongoing monitoring of implementation. 
  • Exemptions are revisited, and safeguards are strengthened, to avoid loopholes. We recommend that all NSIPs deliver at least 10% biodiversity net gain. 
  • Government to commit to a review of the implementation and enforcement of biodiversity net gain plans across England every five years as a minimum 

Dame Glenys Stacey added: “There is a real opportunity here to protect and improve the environment. We offer our advice to support the government in its ambitions to achieve that, and we are keen to engage with government as these plans progress.”