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Small builders relieved at biodiversity net gain delays

While some will see delays to the biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements as another sign of the government rowing back on its environmental commitments, builders’ lobby groups have expressed their relief.

The BBC reports today that its reporters have been briefed by government sources that BNG rules that formed part of the 2021 Environment Act will now not be introduced this November, as had been planned. It would announce a new date for implementation “soon”, the state broadcaster reports.

The House Builders Association (HBA), the housing arm of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said that it had long been a supporter of the BNG but the delay meant more time for getting it right.

The HBA wrote to ministers in July 2023 voicing concerns that BNG was going to harm its SME members the most because they were unable to set enough land aside to deliver the narrow vision of habitats set out by the BNG calculator. It proposed an alternate, less restrictive, way of calculating requirements for smaller sites.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “We have worked incredibly hard on strategies to ensure BNG can work in practice and the announced delay gives us a chance to work more closely with the government to implement onsite solutions. By building in biodiversity, we can ensure development acts to grow habitats and stimulate species recovery, rather than acting as a block on wildlife corridors via offsetting credits.”

The UK Green Building Council took a different view. Deputy chief executive Simon McWhirter said: “This is yet another blow to sustainable development and risks undermining national efforts to put the collapse of nature into reverse. Responsible developers large and small have been gearing up for this change for years, with many of our members creating dedicated jobs to deliver net gain from in-house consultants to designers, landscape architects and creative project leads. This will be exceptionally damaging for their projected work pipelines, investment, supply chains, and related job roles.

“As for the rollback on carbon policy last week, the industry needs certainty clarity and commitment in order to facilitate green investment and continue to make progress. Biodiversity net gain is no exception. The policy is essential for delivering our sector’s role in reversing nature’s decline and should not be delayed any further.”

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