Environmental Bill

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Overview

The Environmental Bill – which will, among many other things, enshrine ‘biodiversity gain’ into UK legislation for all new developments – is currently moving it’s way through the parliamentary process.

The Bill will mandate at least a 10% net gain for biodiversity for all new developments which go through the planning process. Some internet sources incorrectly state that this will only apply to sites which require an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Bill will amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in several places to include the details. Schedule 7A will be added to the Act, for example, which begins:

”(1) This Schedule makes provision for grants of planning permission
in England to be subject to a condition to secure that the
biodiversity gain objective is met.”

Why 10%

The Government’s response to consultations about the Bill states:

We asked whether 10% biodiversity gain would be a suitable level for a mandatory
requirement. A significant majority of respondents supported the mandatory approach, with respondents arguing for both a higher and a lower percentage figure. On balance, we believe requiring 10% gain strikes the right balance between ambition, certainty in achieving environmental outcomes, and deliverability and costs for developers.
Legislation will therefore require development to achieve a 10% net gain for
biodiversity. In line with consultation responses, legislation will work with the grain of the planning system to achieve the desired environmental outcomes without adding
unnecessary process.

Bill Updates: You can follow the Bill’s progress through parliament here.

January 2020: The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Thursday 30 January 2020. This stage is formal and takes place without any debate.

November 2020: The most recent development includes a committee debate on the 24th November 2020, with representatives from various stakeholders that the bill will affect. There is some interesting discussions on the ‘10% rule’ for biodiversity net gain, with comments mentioning that 10% should be a minimum, with no upper limit to how much net gain a site can achieve. Other conservations included a worry that irreplaceable habitats could be lost – so as long as a 10% gain is shown; all of these important minor points will need to be ironed out within the final bill.

When will the Bill be made law?

The Government’s website is vague (as usual!) in terms of the timings of the bill, however, many local authorities have already begun asking for biodiversity net gain for certain developments, some have even been undertaking net gain since 2012- when the principal was first proposed. It is likely that many more will begin to ask for net gain for developments, in order to get ready for when the bill is made into law.