Biodiversity Net Gain

A Solution for Property Developers

25 April 2024 - Ben Cussons

Peter Thompson, Managing Director of George Thompson Ltd and founder of Nature Based Farming shares how they are helping property developers achieve their Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) quota.

After much delay and prevarication by the government, BNG has landed. Biodiversity Net Gain went live on the 12 February 2024. This means all ‘major development’ sites must achieve a 10% measurable increase in biodiversity over the site (red line plan) baseline, this includes sites of 10 houses or more or more than one hectare. Small sites BNG went live on 2 April so any development (with a few minor exceptions) will also need to address BNG.

Much has been written about BNG and it would be easy to spend weeks on end, watching or listening to webinars, videos and talks. In our view, many people are making it more complicated than it needs to be. At Nature Based Farming we use our own farmland and use other farmer’s land to create and manage BNG units which are available to purchase for developers who require off-site BNG if they cannot achieve enough units on-site.

For a developer, the first priority is to consider how much BNG can be achieved onsite. You will already use an ecologist to undertake surveys on your sites before submitting planning applications. Now you need them to complete a survey of existing habitats and their conditions and enter that information into the statutory metric – an excel spreadsheet now in its umpteenth version which has taken the government years to develop. And, surprise, surprise, it still isn’t user-friendly.

Once you have your baseline you need to consider whether you can enhance and restore biodiversity on-site as part of your site design. If you can hit your target on site, all well and good. If you can’t you need to make up the shortfall with off-site units and finally, if you can’t find off-site units you would have to purchase BNG credits from the government backed statutory credit scheme – which are twice the price of the BNG unit market price so something to be avoided. This process is known as the 3 step ‘biodiversity gain hierarchy’ and is something you should follow given BNG is now a statutory planning condition.

On-site BNG appeals because it can potentially save the cost of buying off-site units. We work with an experienced Landscape Designer, familiar with Local Planning Authority  (LPA) demands, to ensure that clients get the BNG in the right place. While on-site seems a win-win it is worth remembering that BNG comes with legal covenants to ensure the habitat is created, managed and monitored over its lifetime. This can be in excess of 30 years and can create issues for developers who would not want to take on such obligations or pass them on to purchasers of the homes. This is where the off-site BNG is particularly valuable because the legal obligations to maintain it are on the landowner or farmer – like Nature Based Farming.

So how is it going so far? Sadly, but unsurprisingly despite plenty of warning and all the delays the LPAs seem un-prepared. To create our off-site units, we have to agree our own s106’s with the LPA where our land is and the LPAs are taking their time to understand and resource these new additions to their responsibilities.

Despite simple and clear templates available to include with planning applications for developers, the LPAs are still slow to understand the process. This does present a potential blockage for getting planning applications through the system and again when LPA’s need to be satisfied that BNG conditions have been discharged before work on-site can start.

To understand more for your developments and your particular area please feel free to drop us a line for a chat by visiting

At Scrutton Bland, we know that this is a topic that many of our clients and contacts are keen to learn more about, which is why we will be hosting an event specifically about this for property developers on Friday 7 June from 8.30am – 10am at Holt Farm, Great Oakley. For more information and to book your place please email

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