Will the ‘green Brexit’ impact property developments?
Following the promises of a ‘green Brexit’ we can finally expect the Environment Bill to become law in the next few months. The implementation of this environmental legislation will be significant, especially after all the delays caused by a general election and a global pandemic.
The proposals in the Environment Bill that concern the preservation of nature and the conservation of protected species will no doubt impact planners and developers. The Bill will place a ‘duty to enhance’ biodiversity at the heart of policy in England and Wales. The aim here is to increase biodiversity at a development site, by an ongoing condition in a planning approval, guaranteed for a period of at least 30 years. This will require that the biodiversity of the developed site must exceed that of the undeveloped site by 10%, according to a metric developed by DEFRA. The existing policy does require local planning authorities (“LPA”) to minimise impacts on, and provide net gains for, biodiversity but the new law will more rigorous as it will require local authorities actually to enforce this in the long term.
When developers apply for planning permission, they will be required to submit proposals of how the net gain will be achieved. The LPA will then ensure the promised gain is realised and this will no doubt lead to a strictly-controlled system for legally binding private agreements between a conservation body and the landowner. The LPA will also prioritise those developments which do not harm biodiversity. There will be some exceptions to the biodiversity net gain requirement, for example permitted development or minor householder applications.
It is expected that a number of additional or updated policies are likely to impact on developers and development in England. Whilst the Environment Bill does not impact ongoing developments, developers who are acquiring sites now will need to factor in these additional obligations when undertaking their site appraisals.