British Property Federation wants long-term funding approach so councils can handle new planning condition coming into force next week
The British Property Federation is calling for a long-term approach to funding the planning system to ensure local authorities have the resources to handle new biodiversity rules.
Mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations in England will come into force from 12 February for major developments, from April for smaller sites and from November 2025 for nationally significant infrastructure projects.
The new planning condition will require developers to submit biodiversity gain plans as part of planning applications before schemes can be approved.
Under the rules, developers will need to demonstrate that their scheme will boost biodiversity by at least 10% and maintain this for 30 years or more, either on site, off site or both.
They can also combine these two options with purchasing BNG credits from Natural England, although the government says this must be a “last resort”. The revenue from the credits will be used to invest in habitat creation within England.
The regulations aim to improve natural habitats by ensuring new developments have a measurably positive impact on diversity compared to what was on the site before.
But the British Property Federation (BPF) has warned that planning departments are currently not ready to deal with the introduction of the rules due to scant resources, capacity and skills.
Government research suggests only 5% of local planning departments feel their current ecological resource is adequate to scrutinise all applications that might affect biodiversity.
BPF assistant director Rob Wall said: “The property sector has a huge role to play in protecting and restoring nature, and many developers are already delivering BNG across their existing assets and new developments.”
“The new mandatory BNG regulations will place an additional burden on already over-stretched local authority planning departments.
“This is why we are calling on government to set out a new long-term strategy for resourcing the planning system to ensure that planning departments have the capacity and capability to deliver on all fronts including on BNG.”
The BPF has published an election manifesto calling for reform of the planning system which includes higher fees paid by applicants to fund skills and capacity in council planning departments.