Farming News - Defra: New housing developments to deliver a boost for nature in landmark move rolled out today

Defra: New housing developments to deliver a boost for nature in landmark move rolled out today

  • In a world first, developers in England are now legally required to deliver 10% Biodiversity Net Gain when building new housing, industrial or commercial developments.
  • Developments will need to make a positive impact on their local environment by creating an overall enhancement in biodiversity – benefitting people and nature.
  • £10.6 million of funding is being committed for 2024/25 to help Local Planning Authorities with the roll-out across the country.

From today (Monday 12 February), all major housing developments are required to deliver at least a 10% benefit for nature with England becoming the first country in the world to make Biodiversity Net Gain a legal requirement.

Biodiversity Net Gain, introduced through the world-leading Environment Act, will help deliver the government’s commitment to halt species decline by 2030. It means developers in England are now legally required to deliver at least a 10% increase in biodiversity when major building projects are undertaken. Many housing developers are already successfully operating Biodiversity Net Gain and recognising the benefits for people and nature. But from today, it will be mandatory.

To help Local Planning Authorities integrate Biodiversity Net Gain at a local level, £10.6 million of funding is being committed to help local authorities recruit and expand ecologist teams, investing in green jobs and increasing capacity to create new wildlife-rich habitats alongside developments.


Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:

 “Biodiversity Net Gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live.

“This government is going further and faster for nature, since 2010 we have restored an area for nature larger than the size of Dorset, banned micro plastics and set ambitious targets to halt biodiversity decline.

“This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”


Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, said:

"If we are to halt and reverse the decline of wildlife in line with our ambitious national targets then it will be vital to ensure that new habitats are created to compensate those being lost to developments.

“Biodiversity Net Gain is a key moment on our path to halting the decline of nature, enabling developers to make a positive contribution through creating new habitats, increasing access to green spaces, and building healthy and resilient places for people to live and work.

“Many developers are already using Biodiversity Net Gain in new developments and recognising the benefits for people and nature.”


David Mooney, CEO of London Wildlife Trust, said:

 “We need to take this opportunity and make sure Biodiversity Net Gain can help towards nature's recovery. Central government, local authorities, developers, and nature charities like The Wildlife Trusts must work together to bring nature to our doorsteps and wildlife to our windows.” 

Developers like Berkeley Group have been carrying out developments using Biodiversity Net Gain for several years.


Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of Berkeley Group, said:

 “Biodiversity Net Gain is a positive step for the homebuilding industry and will bring nature back to our towns and cities. Putting this into practice on over 50 sites has been a hugely positive experience for Berkeley Group and these greener, wilder landscapes have huge benefits for the communities around them. 

“The challenge now is to make sure that developers and planning authorities take a positive and collaborative approach to delivering Biodiversity Net Gain across the country. This is a big change for everyone involved and we need to work together to unlock the full benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.”

Biodiversity Net Gain requires development to avoid harm to nature, but where that is unavoidable, developers must create new habitats or enhance existing ones either within the site itself or by investing in nature sites elsewhere. Biodiversity Net Gain means there will be more nature after a development than before. Where this is not possible, developers can purchase off-site biodiversity units from landowners via a private market.

Local authorities have a range of tools to help them enforce Biodiversity Net Gain, while the Environment Act 2021 includes mechanisms to ensure that commitments through conservation covenants are adhered to. Off-site projects will be tracked and monitored through a digital register maintained by Natural England.

Biodiversity Net Gain for small sites will still be applicable from April 2024, and implementation for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects remains planned for 2025. Biodiversity Net Gain will prioritise on-site nature development to deliver the maximum benefits for people and nature.

England is the only country in the world with mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain, further cementing our position as world leader on the environment. The UK was also the first country in the world to have legally binding targets to halt the decline of nature. Since the launch of the Environmental Improvement Plan in January 2023, the government has delivered on over 50 commitments to protect and restore our natural environment including a ban on single-use plastics, planting nearly 5 million trees, introducing the Species Survival Fund, and improving public access to nature with 245 additional miles opened along the King Charles III England Coast Path.