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RTPI publishes worrying new data ahead of Biodiversity Net Gain implementation deadline

RTPI publishes worrying new data ahead of Biodiversity Net Gain implementation deadline

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has published new evidence that shows planners are struggling to prepare for new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements expected to begin later this year.  

The measures, introduced under the Environment Act, will require local planning authorities to assess and seek mitigation of the expected biodiversity net gain impact of planning proposals. They are expected to apply to new major applications from November 2023 and all minor applications from April 2024.

However, an ongoing survey of our RTPI members found that:

  • 61% of public sector planners cannot confirm they’ll have dedicated BNG resource and ecological expertise in-house in place by November.
  • 79% of public sector planners believe that BNG practice would be improved with confirmation of additional ‘skills and staff’
  • 78% of public sector planners believe that BNG practice would be improved with additional ‘guidance, advice and support’
  • 54% of planners across the public and private sector believe that BNG practice would be improved by giving ‘case studies of best practice’

We also found public and private sector planners report having extremely low levels of confidence in the practical requirements of BNG, including core aspects of the scheme like ‘identifying BNG receptor sites’, ‘interpreting the robustness of ecological reports and BNG proposals’, ‘using the biodiversity metric’ and ‘negotiating with landowners over site provision’.

Commenting on the results, RTPI Chief Executive, Victoria Hills has said:

“These new findings show that government is running out of time to prepare local planning authorities to assess biodiversity net gain on major planning applications as expected in November.

The RTPI fully support the scheme’s intention to improve our natural environment and we’ll continue to engage with Ministers and officials behind the scenes to urgently clarify the details of new BNG regulations, funding and training. Our research found that 25% of local authority planners have left over the last seven years. Immediate clarity and support will be crucial to the successful implementation of biodiversity net gain and to avoid adding to England’s planning backlog.”

In response to government consultations, we’ve previously said that “legislation, guidance and metric can help to achieve [BNG] but must be complemented with proper resourcing for planners, including access to ecological expertise.”

The RTPI’s latest survey results, collected between May and August 2023, add to a growing body of evidence that shows planners are concerned about the implementation of this new addition to their workload. Earlier this year, The Planner’s Careers Survey reported that 38% planners expected the ‘introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain requirements’ to be one of the biggest challenges they’ll face this year.

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BDC 309 : Oct 2023