New planning regulations to protect the environment were set to apply from November

Plans to force developers to improve natural habitats have been delayed.

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) was set to become mandatory under English planning rules in November but, according to the BBC, the new requirements will now not come into force this year. 

Under the rules, which were approved as part of the 2021 Environment Act, builders will be required to create new habitats on or off-site or, as a last resort, buy statutory credits from the government to fund improvements on other sites.

A combination of the three options to achieve the mandatory 10% BNG improvement would be allowed, but proof would be required to explain why preferred options are not possible.

A survey undertaken by the Land Trust this year found that 50% of developers and land promoters would find the BNG requirements “very challenging”, with only 13% considering them to be achievable.

Toby Lambert, co-founder and director of land promotion company Agora Land, warned on Housing Today in 2020 that BNG could mean “some developments are rendered unviable, particularly smaller sites”.

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The government had already given builders of smaller sites a five-month grace period – until April 2024 – to comply with the new rules. It is unclear whether this period will now be extended.

Ministers had also pledged to help local authorities deliver the policy, with £16m set aside to resource and upskill teams.

Councils will have to approve BNG plans before work can begin on sites.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been approached for comment.