Biodiversity Net Gain

What is Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an approach to development that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand. It is a national initiative established by the Environment Act 2021 and East Cambridgeshire District Council is fully committed to supporting its successful implementation. For a national overview of what BNG is all about, then please review national government guidance on Understanding Biodiversity Net Gain (external link).

Put very simply, from 12 February 2024 (for Major developments) and from 2 April 2024 (for Minor developments), new development must achieve a minimum of a 10% BNG. This means a development will result in more or better quality natural habitat than there was before development.

This webpage does not repeat all the detailed national rules and guidance, but instead focusses on specific issues for East Cambridgeshire and how we are applying the requirements locally. Please note that this webpage and associated support pages set out our understanding of the rules. However, nothing on this page supersedes any national legal or policy requirement. As such, if there is any conflict between our website content and national policy and guidance, then the national requirements prevail.

Biodiversity Net Gain: our approach in East Cambridgeshire

East Cambridgeshire District Council reconfirmed in November 2022 its acknowledgement of the global biodiversity emergency we face. BNG is one way to help nature recover, and will complement other policies we have in place in East Cambridgeshire, including our Natural Environment Supplementary Planning Document, which establishes wider policies developers must follow to help support nature in our district.

The District Council recognises that implementing BNG successfully will require considerable new ways of working both by developers seeking planning permission and by the Council making decisions on those planning applications and making sure the minimum 10% BNG is achieved. 

We want to make the process as smooth as possible for all parties, and are committed to helping all developers through the process. However, it must be made clear from the outset that BNG is a mandatory requirement. That means it is not negotiable and, unless your proposal is exempt under the national rules, you must comply with the requirement to provide a minimum 10% BNG.

The minimum 10% BNG must not only be achieved, but must also be maintained for a minimum 30 years thereafter. The Council has put in place internal monitoring arrangements to make sure all BNG achieved via new development is monitored for the full 30 years. Where it is not being achieved or maintained properly, we will endeavour to work with landowners to help identify what needs to be done to meet their obligations. However, ultimately, we will use our enforcement powers where it is clear a landowner is failing to meet their BNG commitments.

How to achieve your minimum 10% BNG

There are many different ways the minimum 10% BNG can be achieved, including on-site as part of the new development or off-site in a different location, or a mix of the two. The options are all set out in the national rules.

Nevertheless, East Cambridgeshire District Council's preference is for the BNG to be provided either on-site, where it is appropriate to do so as part of a wider high quality development design and layout, or off-site in a suitable location in the district. Either way, the Council will always seek BNG which helps to achieve habitats which are bigger, better and more joined up, allowing wildlife to thrive and assist in species recovery as part of a wider nationwide nature recovery effort. 

For more information on BNG and what it might mean for you, we has set up the following additional supporting pages:

  • BNG and Major Development - further support if your development proposal is a major application
  • BNG and Minor Development - further support if your development proposal is a minor application
  • BNG and Strategic Significance - to explain what has been determined locally as strategically significant habitats. This is an important feature of how to calculate BNG accurately.
  • Habitat Banks - to explain how to set up a Habitat Bank or find out where they are and how they can help you meet your BNG obligations.
  • BNG FAQs - a regularly updated page with commonly asked queries we have received.

BNG and other natural environment requirements

It should be noted that BNG does not replace other natural environment policy or legal requirements that exist. These include policy requirements set out in our Local Plan and Natural Environment SPD, as well as wider national and local legislation and policy. For further details on some of these wider requirements, please see our Ecology and Biodiversity support page. 

Wider nature recovery in East Cambridgeshire

East Cambridgeshire District Council fully supports the Doubling Nature (external link) ambitions of Natural Cambridgeshire (external link), a vision which seeks to double the area of rich wildlife habitat and natural green space across Cambridgeshire. As part of our local contribution to that vision, we have launched an East Cambridgeshire Nature Recovery Network (PDF) document, which identifies nine Priority Areas in the district for landscape-scale action to support nature's recovery. Coming soon is a Cambridgeshire-wide Local Nature Recovery Strategy (external link), setting out a long term vision of how and where nature can be enhanced.

I am not a developer, what can I do?  

If you are a parish council, local business or landowner, why don't you establish a Local Nature Recovery action plan for your area or premises?

If you are a homeowner or small landowner, there are lots of great, simple and cheap things you can do that would make a huge difference to help nature recover here in East Cambridgeshire. No matter how big or small your garden, or even if just a window ledge or patio, do visit the Wildlife Trust's Help Wildlife at Home (external link) page, with great ideas from bee hotels to hedgehog homes, as well as how to attract butterflies and birds to your garden.

For more information on nature recovery in East Cambridgeshire, please see our Natural Environment homepage.