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Decision details

Interim Approach to Biodiversity Net Gain

Decision Maker: Executive Councillor for Planning, Building Control, and Infrastructure

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No


To approve the recommended interim approach to siting biodiversity net gain for developments across Cambridge, and to note and welcome the emerging habitat banks in Greater Cambridge,


Matter for Decision

The report referred to the introduction of the requirement for 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) above baseline conditions for all developments in England from November 2023 as outlined in the Environment Act.


The Executive Councillor was asked to approve an interim approach for Greater Cambridge to proposed offsite BNG to ensure that applicants and decision makers are clear on what is expected by the Council when considering offsite BNG proposals, prior to November 2023. This includes a sequential approach starting with BNG provision on site wherever possible, before considering offsite strategic habitat banks and then more local solutions to fulfil this need encompassing the principles already set out in the Environment Act around BNG, and emerging best practice.


Decision of the Executive Councillor for Planning and Infrastructure

i.                Endorsed the interim approach to siting biodiversity net gain for developments across Cambridge, and noted and welcomed the emerging habitat banks in Greater Cambridge, with delegated powers given to the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development to make minor changes to the technical note at Appendix A of the Officer’s report.


Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.


Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable


Scrutiny Considerations

The Natural Environment Team Leader introduced the report.


In response to comments made by the Committee, the Natural Environment Team Leader and Built and Natural Environment Manager said the following:

      i.          Further regulations / are awaited from DEFRA; officers did not have a complete set of guidance yet but are taking soundings and advice from peers in Natural England, the Planning Advisory Service, and other Local Authorities.

     ii.          Nature reserve sites in private ownership that were in poor condition which may be suitable for BNG contributions for enhancement, but equally could be eligible for other revenue streams. Officers would look carefully at any proposals for these sites.

   iii.          The achievement of BNG was a component of sustainable development as confirmed by central government through the National Planning Policy Framework. Therefore, members of the planning committee could consider the delivery of the objectives of the interim approach. However, 10 % or the aspiration for 20% BNG was not yet part of the emerging Local Plan policy framework and Committees could not at this point insist upon these figures in making planning decisions.

   iv.          It was the intention to encourage on-site BNG as a priority. Training and briefings would be provided to officers and planning committee members to outline the aim and intended outcome of this interim approach.

    v.          It would be made clear to developers the Council’s commitment to BNG within the planning application process and what could and should be achieved.

   vi.          When the Environment Act obligations became mandatory this would give weight to planning applications being approved or refused on the basis that 10% BNG would or would not be delivered amongst other material planning considerations. 

 vii.          The current legislation states BNG has to be delivered but there is no actual figure; in simple terms developers have to put back more than they take out.

viii.          The changes to the Environment Act introduced the requirement for 10% BNG above baseline conditions for all developments in England from November 2023 which would be a considerable increase.

   ix.          All developments in Greater Cambridge should aim to deliver high quality green infrastructure as best practice.

    x.          The expectation was that after thirty years of good management of BNG on sites, the site should be in such good condition they would be seen as valued biodiversity locations and would not be appropriate for any kind of built development.

   xi.          Larger strategic habitat banks delivered greater benefit to BNG securing significant improvements at a landscape scale. In addition, these sites could be managed more effectively for BNG and could be monitored by the local authority over a 30-year period more easily than a vast number of smaller sites.

 xii.          The emerging local plan identified large sites in Greater Cambridge for habitat and landscape enhancement.

xiii.          Carbon sequestration was an important part of vegetative growth but was not the primary benefit of BNG, that was biodiversity.

xiv.          BNG would be fully funded by the developers.

xv.          Community led solutions to BNG provide smaller opportunities due to the size of land available in the city compared to the land available owned by various parishes in Greater Cambridge.

xvi.          There are several ways officers could verify BNG being delivered during the local authority’s management such as aerial photography and Google maps. There would be standard approach nationally to measure the uplift, using the Defra metrics.


The Executive Councillor for Planning and Infrastructure referenced six council houses that had been built on Wadloes Road. This had produced BNG of 35% overall through an offsite community project and onsite biodiversity. Small projects could be beneficial to biodiversity and community. 


The Committee


Unanimously endorsed the recommendations as set out in the Officer’s report. 


Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.


The Executive Councillor for Planning and Infrastructure approved the recommendations and thanked the officers for all their hard work on this matter which would benefit the city of Cambridge and Greater Cambridgeshire significantly.


Publication date: 28/10/2022

Date of decision: 28/06/2022