Environment Bill - What does it mean for developers?

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones

Published: January 18th, 2021

7 min read

Following the UK's official departure from the European Union on 1 January 2021, the Environment Bill is set to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced by the Government. The Bill as it stands will incorporate environmental protections covered in EU legislation, as well as introducing the Government's emphasis on environmentally friendly practice into law.

These proposed changes present both challenges and opportunities to developers when considering where to purchase land and how it should be managed. In most cases, new developments will now be required to produce a 10% increase in the biodiversity value of the land. It is important to note that this increase must be maintained for a minimum of 30 years. Furthermore, when developers submit their planning application to the local authority, it must be accompanied by a biodiversity net gain plan. There may need to be new arrangements for management of the green spaces by arranging covenants with a "responsible body" (such as public bodies, local councils or charities) to oversee the future conservation and bind future land owners. On the one hand, this will make the process of obtaining planning permission more onerous for developers, as it will now be important to consider how a plot of land can be made more biodiverse before purchasing it. There will also be the added costs of implementing and maintaining the biodiversity plan. On the flip side, there are reasons for developers to capitalise on the new policy. Recent data published by The Office for National Statistic shows that house prices rise by an average of £2,500 where they are located urban green spaces and the pandemic has highlighted a greater desire for people to live in greener and more diverse areas.

Furthermore, developers who display a willingness to incorporate more green spaces into their land will likely be prioritised by local authority led initiatives to develop green housing, it may also be easier obtaining finance from lenders seeking to invest in biodiverse areas. It is also anticipated that the new emphasis on biodiversity will soon transition to infrastructure projects on a national scale. Developers who are quick to embrace the new planning requirements place themselves in a good position to capitalise, and to potentially be in a more competitive position to win tenders for land

Given that the new biodiversity requirements forms part of a larger long-term plan to improve the environmental sustainability, the sooner that developers prepare and adapt, the better.

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