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Biodiversity and the Natural Environment

Over the last century, the state of nature in the UK has seen a significant and alarming decline due to increased demands, including population increase, development, agricultural intensification, climate change and pollution, resulting in deteriorated and fragmented habitats. The UK has experienced an 19% decrease in wildlife abundance on average since the 1970s and ranks among the bottom 10% globally for biodiversity.
(Source: Planning Advisory Service (PAS) - Local Government Association (LGA)).

On 5 October 2023, West Berkshire Council strengthened its climate emergency declaration to include the ecological emergency. This statement acknowledges the current biodiversity crisis and highlights the importance of our natural environment in West Berkshire. This page outlines our statutory obligations under the Environment Act 2021, the actions West Berkshire Council is taking to meet its duties (including objectives and projects detailed in the Environment Strategy and Delivery Plan), and how the priorities within the Council Strategy will shape our work over the years to come.

On this page you can find key information on the Biodiversity Duty, Biodiversity Net Gain, Nutrient Neutrality, the Local Nature Recovery Strategy and the Natural Solution Delivery Partnership.


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Biodiversity duty

The Environment Act 2021 includes an enhanced duty for local authorities to conserve and enhance biodiversity and report on their actions. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will need to comply with this duty and have regard to the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategy (being jointly produced by Berkshire Local Authorities) in local planning policy and decisions.

West Berkshire Council has already made great strides in our work on biodiversity through a myriad of actions. Please see the council's current actions to conserve and enhance biodiversity Icon for excel Biodiversity duty actions [14KB] .

You can find out more about what the council's biodiversity duty is here.


Biodiversity Net Gain

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What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is an approach to development that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before development took place.

Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain legislation comes into force for large sites in January 2024 (date to be confirmed) and for small sites in April 2024 (exemptions apply). This legislation amends the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA).

Developers will be required to provide a minimum of 10% biodiversity gain, which will be calculated using a Biodiversity Metric and will require the approval of a Biodiversity Gain Plan.

The habitat will be secured for at least 30 years via planning conditions and obligations.

You can find full details on BNG at GOV.UK.

Biodiversity Net Gain and the planning process

Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is due to commence in January 2024 for major applications, April 2024 for all other applications and November 2025 for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (exemptions apply).

As stated above, mandatory BNG will require most new development to deliver at least a 10% net gain for biodiversity. The planning process plays a fundamental role in the delivery of BNG.

You can find further information on the planning process here.


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Phosphates and nutrient neutrality

Development achieves nutrient neutrality when the nutrient load created through additional wastewater (including surface water) from the development is mitigated. By designing development alongside suitable mitigation measures, additional nutrient loads can often be avoided or mitigated. This approach is called 'nutrient neutrality'. It essentially allows developments to be permitted without impacting on the condition of protected sites.

Source: Local Government Association (LGA).

Guidance on phosphates and nutrient neutrality.


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Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs) are spatial strategies to recover nature across England and are part of the 2021 Environment Act. Together, these network of strategies will cover the country in a Nature Recovery Network (NRN).

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) is the Responsible Authority for the Berkshire LNRS. Bracknell, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire and Wokingham are supporting authorities with Natural England. Together, these supporting authorities will help contribute to the strategy for Berkshire as a whole.

You can find further details on the Berkshire LNRS on the RBWM website.


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Natural Solutions Delivery Partnership

You can find out how West Berkshire Council and partners are working together to manage the use of nature, and enhance biodiversity and capture carbon through the Natural Solutions Delivery Partnership.


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