More delay has again cast doubt over the Government’s commitment to the new environmental policies that are expected to help boost farm incomes following the ending of the Basic Payment Scheme.

As South East Farmer prepared to go to press, the Government announced that the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements, due to become a mandatory part of the planning system in England in November, had been delayed.

The slippage comes on the back of a delay in introducing the Sustainable Farming Initiative and government decisions to row back on other ‘green’ policies, including delaying the ban on buying new petrol and diesel engine cars, now not due to be introduced until 2035.

A government spokesman claimed that the requirement on developers to leave the land better off environmentally at the end of any scheme would still go ahead, commenting: “We are fully committed to biodiversity net gain, which will have benefits for people and nature. We will set out more details on implementation timings shortly.”

When that happens, farmers are expected to benefit from developers who will be able to buy BNG credits that will fund ‘green’ initiatives elsewhere if they can’t create the required 10% net gain in biodiversity on site.

An early response to the delay came from Sarah Clark, partner at lawyers BDB Pitmans, who commented: “This isn’t unexpected as the question on my clients’ lips in recent weeks has been ‘will it happen?’ Landowners who were hoping to add their land to the new biodiversity site register will certainly be disappointed as this was due to be an important new income source for many of them. 

“It does feel like a politically driven delay given the tone of recent announcements from Number 10 on green matters. Until a new timetable for implementation is announced and the draft regulations are published, local authorities, developers and landowners alike are left with considerable uncertainty about when these significant changes will take effect. 

“The pricing of statutory biodiversity credits, which can be bought from the Government as an option of last resort if BNG cannot be delivered, announced in the summer was considered high by many developers and they will unquestionably drive up the value of land on the biodiversity register. 

“More broadly and on the ‘levelling up’ agenda, this will have implications for landowners outside the South East who would have had more opportunity to realise land value which has typically been lower due to grade and location.

 “Some local authorities have planning policies in place which already require BNG but there are still a lot of projects which don’t deliver on it.  Planning applications which have been made already won’t be affected by today’s news and there will be some developers who will be pleased about the delay as they can get applications planned for submission later this year into the system before the new requirements take effect.”

South East Farmer will have more coverage of the delay in the November issue. Write to the editor –

For more like this, sign up for the FREE South East Farmer e-newsletter here and receive all the latest farming news, reviews and insight straight to your inbox.