Biodiversity net gain

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is a new approach to improving the biodiversity of the environment through the planning application process. BNG makes sure that habitats for wildlife are left in a measurably better state than they were before the development. We recognise that there is an ecological emergency and that there are challenges in balancing development within the broader environmental context. We believe BNG will help with this challenge and we encourage applicants to stretch the BNG targets wherever possible.

In Cheltenham borough all development must deliver BNG of at least 10 per cent unless one of the exemptions apply.

When does BNG come into effect?

BNG comes into effect from:

  • 12 February 2024 for major applications submitted on or after that date
  • 2 April 2024 for minor applications submitted on or after that date

Applications submitted before the above dates do not need to comply with BNG requirements, even if they are yet to be determined on the relevant date.

How can BNG be achieved?

There are three options for delivering BNG:

  1. On-site, by improving or restoring existing habitat within the ‘red line’ boundary of the application site
  2. On an alternative site (off-site) by improving or restoring existing habitat on that site. This is usually done with a legal agreement. This could include the purchase of ‘biodiversity units’ which enable third-party landowners to increase the biodiversity value of their land elsewhere
  3. Through the purchase of statutory biodiversity credits from the government. This should be a last resort. The government will use the revenue to invest in habitat creation in England. The status of statutory credits as a last resort is reflected in their pricing, which is higher than the equivalent biodiversity gain units available on the market

BNG could also be achieved through a combination of the above three options. Our priority is for BNG measures to be carried out within our borough. This ensures that our residents can access and benefit from the offsetting of the impact of development.

Throughout 2024, we will be offering BNG credits. We can give advice on what is available as part of the application process.

My application is BNG applicable, how should I proceed?

We strongly encourage you to talk to our planning team as soon as possible during the planning process, ideally at the pre-application stage. As part of the pre-application advice service, we'll be able to advise you of the BNG requirements for your development. We can also confirm what your submission will need to include to be validated. We will be able to provisionally assess your proposed BNG measures if you include these with your pre-app submission.

We've set out the key steps and guidance for submitting a BNG application to help you with the process.

How will you assess my application?

If BNG applies to your application, you'll need to include a completed biodiversity metric. You will also need to include meaningful information setting out how the 10 per cent net gain will be achieved in practice. The regulations set out the minimum information that an application must include for us to register it as a valid application. Your application cannot be registered or validated if you haven't included this mandatory information. 

We will assess your submitted BNG information during the course of the application and will consult with our ecological advisors. In many cases we will need to discuss and agree how the BNG measures will be secured, for example by means of a section 106 agreement.

What happens once permission has been granted?

If we're happy that the BNG information and proposals you submitted are appropriate, and the application is acceptable in all other respects, planning permission will be granted. This may be subject to a section 106 legal agreement if needed. The legal agreement must be completed before permission is granted. It may set out certain BNG requirements such as ongoing management arrangements or methodology for example.

Biodiversity Gain Plan

If your application is approved, it will be on the condition that you submit a Biodiversity Gain Plan that meets with our approval. You should not start any development on site until we have approved the plan in writing.

Your Biodiversity Gain Plan should set out all of the proposed BNG measures in one easy to read document. It will need to include a completed post-development biodiversity metric and pre- and post-development plans. You'll find a template to use on GOV.UK.

Biodiversity Gain Plan template

Habitat Monitoring and Management Plan

In addition to the Biodiversity Gain Plan, we’re likely to impose a condition requiring you to submit a Habitat Monitoring and Management Plan (HMMP) that meets with our approval. If there’s a section 106 agreement in place, then we’ll include the requirement for an HMMP within that agreement rather than as a condition.

To discharge the HMMP condition (or relevant clauses of the section 106 agreement) you will need to send us details of management and monitoring arrangements for at least a 30 year period. 

Habitat Monitoring and Management Plan template