Will the government’s biodiversity plans prove a net gain for the housebuilding sector?

Berkeley BNG Woodberry Down

From this month, all developments will have to show how they increase biodiversity by 10% in order to receive planning permission. Joey Gardiner looks at whether the policy is a win-win or too much too soon

Almost six years after Michael Gove as environment secretary first promised to make protecting the natural world go “hand in hand” with building more homes, the government’s compulsory biodiversity net gain policy will finally be introduced later this month. Under this policy, all development projects will have to ensure that they generate an increase of at least a 10% in biodiversity, either on site or by off-setting.

At the time, Gove said that his biodiversity net gain (BNG) plan, which became enshrined in the 2021 Environment Act, put “the environment at the heart of planning and development”. Now as housing secretary, overseeing its roll-out across the sector, he says it will ensure that developers “enrich local wildlife when delivering new homes and infrastructure”.

Either way, it is hard to underplay its significance to the industry, potentially fundamentally affecting how developers design, landscape, value, manage and market their sites, and adding a big new layer of complexity into the planning process at a time when the system is already buckling under the strain of a resourcing crisis. “It’s something that’s had a fundamental effect on the way we approach sites,” says Neil Beamsley, group head of biodiversity at listed builder Bellway.

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