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New planning rules provide opportunities for farmers and landowners

Stephen Boundy of Stags Planning Services outlines some of the impacts of the recent Environment Act, which are expected to give rise to a new market for land to be used by developers to meet their biodiversity net gain requirements. 

The Environment Act became law on 10 November 2021 during COP26. The Act is a significant piece of new legislation that the government has claimed will “clean up the country’s air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste, halt species decline, tackle deforestation and make better use of our resources.” As this claim suggests, it is expected to have wide-ranging impacts, including within the realms of planning, development and land.

Perhaps most significantly for planning and development, the Act requires (following a two-year transition period) that all planning permissions granted, irrespective of their size, must demonstrate a net gain of at least 10% in the biodiversity value of the development site.

The net gain is achieved either by an improvement of the biodiversity within the site being developed, by improving the biodiversity value on a piece of land elsewhere, or by purchasing biodiversity credits (a credit scheme which is expected to be announced by the Secretary of State in due course). Any on-site or off-site biodiversity increase must be secured for 30 years, either by a planning condition, planning obligation, or a ‘conservation covenant’.

Landowners should be aware that these changes are expected to give rise to a new market for land to be used by developers to meet their biodiversity net gain requirements. This is particularly likely to present opportunities in relation to land with low development potential and/or a low level of existing biodiversity value.

The impacts of this legislation for developers are clear, and include:

  • Increased upfront planning costs for specialist ecological input in assessing the biodiversity impacts of development
  • Increased costs for providing the Biodiversity Net Gain mitigation measures and maintaining them for 30 years
  • A decrease in the amounts of developable land where mitigation is to be secured on-site
  • An increased desirability of brownfield and otherwise biodiversity-poor development sites where it is likely to be easier to demonstrate a 10% net gain
  • Viability issues on development sites with a high level of biodiversity

Stags is uniquely placed to be able to advise both developers and landowners of the issues and opportunities in relation to Biodiversity Net Gain as the transitionary period progresses.

Whether you are a developer wanting to submit your planning application before these requirements take effect, requiring planning advice or interested in available land for biodiversity offsetting, or a landowner interested in promoting your land for this purpose, please contact Stags Planning and Development department via email at or 01392 439046 to register your interest and be kept updated.