How To Include Biodiversity In Your Planning Applications

If you’ve ever filled in a planning application before, you know there are a lot of conditions and regulations that need to be met in order for the application to be successful. In fact, if you get it wrong your application could be rejected purely because you didn’t include certain information, meaning you have to start the whole process again. It’s one of the reasons we recommend having a professional help you complete any planning application paperwork before filing it with the council. But for developers or those applying to build on new land, there is one area of planning applications that are often missed. Biodiversity.

Biodiversity And Planning Permission

As of last year, the planning requirements for building new homes have changed, and now plans must include a detailed section on biodiversity. Specifically, every development proposal, no matter how big or small the plot is or what condition it’s in, developers are required to assess the current biodiversity profile and implement a plan to increase it by a minimum of 10%. So, what do you need to do to meet the criteria for planning permission now?

There are hundreds of areas in the UK that are designated for protection due to their biodiversity. These include:

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI)
  • Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
  • Habitat corridors
  • Sites of Metropolitan Importance for nature conservation
  • The Blue Ribbon Network (which is in the London Plan)

If your development site is either part of or next to any site designated as an area of importance for its biodiversity, you will need to complete a biodiversity survey and report to submit alongside your planning application.

The Impact On Planning Applications

From 2021, local councils and planning authorities have a statutory duty to protect and promote biodiversity in their area. This means they have to conduct checks to see if local wildlife could be impacted by a proposed development, and what the necessary course of action should be to manage it. To do this, they need information from the developer about the site and biodiversity impacts.

In the past many planning authorities didn’t have the necessary structures or data in place to do this, and so they were granting planning permission to developments that would have negative impacts on wildlife. For example in 2016 there were over 90,000 planning applications for London, but less than 1% of them consulted existing biodiversity data records or assessed the impact the development would have. As a result, many habitats were destroyed, and a lot of damage done. This is just one of the reasons this new legislation exists, and why collecting biodiversity data is important.

Your Biodiversity Survey & Report

Don’t worry – a biodiversity survey isn’t as daunting as it sounds! You should start off with a habitat assessment of the land, followed by an ecological survey to further investigate any possibilities for protected or priority species to be present.  Once you’ve done that, you should provide further information on how you as the developer plan to manage and mitigate that impact, as well as enhancements you can make to improve the biodiversity within the site. This must add up to a minimum of 10% increase on the current biodiversity levels.

So in summary, your biodiversity survey and report should contain:

  • Information on the existing biodiversity of the site, including special interests, protected species or habitats and any possible impacts on them, and
  • Details of any measures proposed to mitigate or compensate for the impact the development will have.

If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. At Engain we use our expertise to manage your ecological footprint, protect wildlife and natural resources. We have a wealth of experience in biodiversity net gain, BREEAM, ecological appraisal and more, so you can be confident that your biodiversity requirements are being met at every stage of planning and implementation. If you would like to know more contact us today.



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