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Biodiversity Net Gain: Benefit or Bureaucracy?

Biodiverse Habitats on Meadfleet open space in Cheltenham

Samantha Hursey, Operations Director and Ecologist at Meadfleet Ltd, a leading provider of open space management services across England and Wales, is preparing for the upcoming Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) regulations that will come into effect from November 2023. Here she shares her thoughts on BNG and the challenges it poses to the development industry.

Biodiversity Net Gain is set to become mandatory under The Environment Act 2021, affecting all housing and nationally significant infrastructure projects in England. It aims to create a strategic nature recovery plan, leaving the natural environment in a better state by requiring a minimum of 10% improvement.

As an ecologist having worked in the sector for over 10 years, both as a consultant working on planning applications and the management of open spaces on completed developments, I have witnessed the need for more longer-term solutions to mitigate the impact residential development has on the natural environment. Biodiversity Net Gain offers an opportunity to secure a more sustainable future with benefits going far beyond biodiversity and the creation and enhancement of habitats, including improvements in air quality, flood management, and soil stability. It also has the ability to bring everyone closer to nature, with diverse green spaces on their doorstep.

Meadfleet Grassland in Ampthill

Whilst supporting the principles of the new regulations, there remain challenges for developers in implementing BNG, with significant detail and guidance still missing and the deadline of November fast approaching, developers may find this leads to delays in planning applications, with limited time to fully understand and implement the new requirements. Other challenges include the absence of potential for on-site BNG and penalties for creating off-site gains plus the availability of off-site land/units within the LA boundary. The industry awaits the publication of the Secondary Legislation which will provide greater detail on the new requirements.

Meadfleet are already applying many of the principles of Biodiversity Net Gain on the developments we manage. Whilst it isn’t a requirement yet, myself and the rest of the Meadfleet Board feel a responsibility to ensure open spaces are managed to maximise biodiversity. We benchmark our developments and our Operations Team receive regular training to help them implement beneficial improvements.

Our Ecology and Conservation Manager and I have been attending training and seminars to keep up to date with BNG and will continue to do so as more information is available. We are working closely with our developer clients to support them through the changes. Our in-house expertise and land-adopting model mean we can ensure the long-term success of biodiversity on the developments we are appointed to manage.

Biodiversity Net Gain is a hugely positive move in the right direction, but it will take several years before all the information and processes are in place for BNG legislation to provide its full potential.

For more information on Biodiversity Net Gain and Meadfleet’s management of open spaces, please contact or visit their website at