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West Norfolk Council will make developers prove they will ‘make nature better off’ before planning applications are approved

New rules will force planning applicants to prove they will “make nature better off” before any proposed developments are approved.

West Norfolk Council has implemented the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) rules, which will affect most new developments aside from small-scale self-builds and alterations or extensions to existing properties.

The authority says the regulations have been implemented as part of the Environment Act 2021, and aim to ensure that any loss of nature or habitat caused by development is made up for with the creation of new habitats.

West Norfolk Council deputy leader Jim Moriarty
West Norfolk Council deputy leader Jim Moriarty

In future, developments in our area will need to result in a BNG of 10%. This means that once a development is complete, there must be an improvement of 10% to the habitat that existed before the development took place.

Cllr Jim Moriarty, deputy leader of the borough council and cabinet member for development, said: “Protecting our environment is one of the four key priorities in the council’s corporate strategy so the enactment of this legislation is good news that will help us to achieve our aim.

“We will be working with applicants and landowners to make implementation a success.”

West Norfolk Council cabinet member Michael De Whalley
West Norfolk Council cabinet member Michael De Whalley

Where possible, rules state that the improvements to BNG must be on the development site itself. Where that is not possible, it can be achieved through the purchase of ‘units’ from a specially-developed nature site elsewhere.

The borough council says its role as the planning authority in West Norfolk is to ensure that new applications meet this requirement and to support landowners who may have sites they are interested in developing for nature, and which can be used to sell units to planning applicants.

It will also provide a “matchmaking service” between applicants and landowners.

Cllr Michael de Whalley, the council’s cabinet member for climate change and biodiversity, said: “We know that one of the primary concerns people have about new development is the loss of habitats that it causes so this is really good news for nature.

“We all know the problems that nature is facing and as biodiversity champion for this borough I will be doing everything I can to ensure West Norfolk gains the maximum possible benefit from these changes.”

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